By Roger Costa
A rich, funny and moving examination on the world of a drag performer, writer-producer-director and star Todd Flaherty’s romantic comedy will make you believe in love again. Shot in an elegant B&W, filled with good humor and sharp dialogue, as well as fabulously convincing performances, it follows the adventures of Judy, a distinguished drag performer who loses his best friend and drag-partner Chrissy, when he moves away with a new lover. As he navigates life, love, sex and failed gig opportunities in New York City, Provincetown and Fire Island, trying to keep on moving with his goals and crossing paths with eccentric queers, the film paints a relevant and touching portrait of gay identity and friendship, solitude and expression. But mostly it is a movie about believing in yourself, in your dreams and in love- even if it sounds outdated and impossible in the lust/Grindr era. Simple yet masterfully crafted and brilliantly presenting a sophisticated aesthetic in its narrative, it is an impressive debut that announces Flaherty as a fresh, vibrant new voice in queer independent cinema. (Screens 10/14).
In this steaming erotic thriller set as a road movie, a lonesome, gorgeous and irresistibly attractive cowboy wanders the streets, and bedrooms, of Sydney in search of purpose and meaning. Examining behavior, aspirations and desires of Millennials, director Craig Boheman conceives an intricated romantic thriller, an insightful look at queer youth that celebrates freedom and acceptance. Subtly delivering the pieces of a gripping puzzle, addressing how a scandal can dissolve one’s life and threat family bond, the story digs deep on emotional ground, not just based on the beauty of the flesh, when the drifter hooks up with a city hustler, initiating a complicated, dangerous and uncontrollable affair. The result is a mysterious, intriguing and sensuous look at uncompromised love and the conflicts of youth. (Screens 10/15).
MY EMPTINESS AND I
A magnificent, immersive and highly entertaining character study dramedy, Spanish co-writer and director Adrian Silvestre composes a sensitive, realistic and upbeat ode to the gender transition experience, its pleasures, challenges and hormonal conflicts. The director’s muse is Raphi, a French young gorgeous trans woman navigating life, career, love, and social dilemmas while in Barcelona. Determined to find the ideal soulmate, someone who will love her for what she is, Raphi stumbles upon unsatisfying dates but never giving up on her quest for enduring love. She is experiencing doubts regarding her identity condition, and seeks guidance before deciding for the ultimate life-changing operation, discussing the matter with veteran queers, doctors and close friends. She also has the family’s support which helps her maintain her dignity and strength in search of her place in the world. Delivering a convincing, lovely performance as the protagonist, newcomer Raphaëlle Pérez anchors the film with firm presence, demonstrating incredible balance between the demands of comedy and tragedy of her character. It is a breakthrough, impressive turn that illuminates the screen. As for the director, it is a remarkable sample of his great potential as a storyteller and investigator of the queer lifestyle and behavior conditions. (Screens 10/16).
EL HOUB- THE LOVE
The burden of the unspoken truth, the harsh of living a lie and the impact of the truth over family traditions are deeply explored in this dramatic comedy helmed by Shariff Nasr, here making his narrative feature debut. It tells the story of Karim, a Moroccan-Dutch man who returns to his parents’ home to break the news of his homosexuality. As they seem unable to accept their son’s real identity and sexuality, he barricades himself inside the closet forcing them to face and deal with the issue, while trying to accept both part’s motives and perspectives. An efficient, compelling and superbly acted drama about the power of family resilience and the importance of setting oneself free. (Screens 10/17).
In this road trip gone awry, a fresh take on the body horror genre, a young talented stud with a shot at the porn industry and his best friend take on a risky easy-money task that turns out unexpectedly bloody. While trying to reach Hollywood, aspiring actor Benjamin and his pal Dom are hired to deliver some drugs, but they must swallow them. When Dom accidentally gets hit in the stomach, the drugs start to work on him their “magic”, which also increasingly threats his life. As Ben runs against time to save his friend, obeying the aggressive dealers’ demands and often serving up his good looks as a survival exchange, the drugs reveal their real substance, made of an unknown bug. Inventive, well-paced, suspenseful and relevant in its depiction of manipulation and pursuing dreams, director Carter Smith delivers an original, seductive and chilling queer horror story. It is so satisfyingly entertaining, that totally deserves a sequel. (Screens 10/14).
(The NewFest NYC Festival 2022 runs October 13-25 with In-person screenings in various venues around NYC as well as Virtual Screenings online. Go to https://newfest.org/festival/ for details.)