NewFest Illuminates The LGBTQ+ Experience Through Films That Entertain, Educate, & Empower

The 33rd annual NewFest LGBTQ+ Film and Media Festival kicks off in theaters and at home on October 15.

Queer representation matters— and thankfully, LGBTQ+ characters are now, more than ever, prevalent in pop culture. Since 1988, NewFest, or The New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, has brought the very best, brightest, and nuanced of queer representation to the screen. NewFest is now the largest presenter of LGBTQ+ media in New York, as well as the city’s biggest gathering place of LGBTQ+ audiences.

NewFest was founded as a direct response to the AIDS crisis, and has since become a year-round film and media organization with programs for the entire LGBTQ+ community. Now, it’s accessible for queer viewers outside of New York as well, with at-home, year-round programming, including free advance screenings and panels of LGBTQ+ shows. Additionally, NewFest founded the Black Filmmakers Initiative in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The initiative offers free NewFest tickets to Black-led organizations, helps to cover NewFest submission fees and travel for Black filmmakers and creators, and provides funding for Black creators for new and existing projects.

“There’s nothing like a room full of queer people!” David Hatkoff, Executive Director of NewFest, tells GO. “We are thrilled to offer more than 50 in-person screenings and events throughout NYC, while still maintaining a virtual streaming element…Whether at the theater or at home, everyone will be able to experience these incredible films in the way that feels most comfortable for them.”

This year, starting October 15, NewFest’s in-person screenings will take place at four venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn: SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd St), The LGBT Community Center (208 W. 13th St), BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn) and Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park (188 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn). Per New York City COVID-19 guidelines, NewFest in-person screenings will require proof of vaccination for all audience, staff and filmmakers, and everyone in the theaters must wear masks unless eating and drinking.

Exclusively in-person screenings and events include the opening night showing of “Mayor Pete,” a documentary about Pete Buttigieg’s campaign to be the youngest and first out gay President of the United States, at SVA Theatre; a special 30th anniversary screening of the groundbreaking documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare” at Nitehawk Prospect Park; the 15th anniversary restoration print of John Cameron Mitchell’s ensemble piece “Shortbus” at BAM Rose Cinemas; and the queer female-driven historical drama “Passing,” starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga and directed by Rebecca Hall, at SVA. For those looking to socialize in style, the Women’s Night Out afterparty celebrating female and nonbinary filmmakers will take place on October 22 at 10 p.m. at Ace Hotel New York. 

Film buffs who prefer to enjoy NewFest from the comfort of their homes won’t miss out on queer cinematic goodness. 90 percent of this year’s NewFest offerings are available both virtually and in-person, and some films will be exclusively virtual. NewFest’s virtual platform is accessible anywhere in the United States during the festival, from October 15 to the 26. 

This year’s NewFest offers a variety of short and feature films, from a multitude of perspectives and experiences. GO readers will love the high-spirited documentary “Rebel Dykes,” which follows a group of “Greenham Women” in 1980s punk-era London, as well as “Invisible,” which chronicles the real-life experiences of gay women in the country music scene. For fans of narrative film, the German drama “Bliss” follows two women who connect at a Berlin brothel and navigate the tumultuous world of sex work while falling for one another, while the Filipino drama “Metamorphosis” centers around intersex teen Adam, their changing body and their relationships with family and friends.

Short films offer quick but intense glimpses into worlds both new and familiar. “Dyke Drama!”’s seven short films look at everything from rideshare couples therapy to falling for your best friend to second-chance lesbian romance between musicians. The “Always a Pleasure” program explores the power of LGBTQ+ touch and desire through stories of trans sculptresses, Black BDSM aficionados and randy single queers in the time of COVID. And of course, Halloween (aka Gay Christmas) has a place at NewFest through the terrifying and sometimes hilarious horror bundle “Queer Fear.”

NewFest is more than parties and movies. Check out the “Queer Lens on Lens” panel, streaming on YouTube and Facebook on Tuesday, October 19 at 5 p.m. E.T. Free with RSVP, this spotlight on queer women and nonbinary cinematographers working behind the camera is co-sponsored by ReFrame, a nonprofit initiative of Women in Film LA and the Sundance Institute. You can also learn more about LGBTQ+ Two-Spirit, Indigenous and First Nation representation in film and TV at a free-with-RSVP virtual panel on Wednesday, October 20 at 5 p.m. E.T. Finally, catch free advance screenings and discussions of LGBTQ+ series like season two of the Emmy-nominated “We’re Here”, Ry Russo-Young’s groundbreaking documentary “Nuclear Family,” and Bilal Baig’s “Sort Of,”which makes its U.S. premiere. 

In-person and virtual tickets can be purchased individually (click here for a complete film and event lineup) or as part of a NewFest pass bundle. If you’re a movie buff, a Virtual All-Access Screening Pass may be your best bet: for $95, passholders get access to over 130 short and feature-length films on NewFest’s on-demand platform from October 15-26. If you’re looking to mix up your digital and in-person viewings, you can purchase other passes starting at  $350, all of which include the Virtual All-Access Streaming Pass as well as general admission in-person screening tickets, festival discounts, and in some cases, tickets to the NewFest Opening Night Screening and party and a year-round tax-deductible membership.

The 33rd annual NewFest LGBTQ+ Film and Media Festival kicks off in theaters and at home on October 15. For more information and tickets, visit

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