This year NewFest New York’s LGBT Film Festival celebrated 31 years, with what seems to be it’s most vibrant festival yet. With feature films, shorts, and even a web series program, Newfest illuminated lower Manhattan for a week of queer cinema greatness.
Watch the film festival trailer here:
The short’s programs, a highlight of the festival, were organized in a remarkable way throughout, with themes for each segment such as “All In The Trans Family” featuring shorts that focused on trans experiences as they relate to family, “Beyond The Binary” highlighting stories that dispel the idea of there only being 2 genders, and “Bless Your Queer Heart” a program of shorts about being queer while living/growing up in the rural South. All of the shorts programs, featuring shorts and series, seamlessly intertwined personal, political, and spiritual stories of all genres including drama, comedy, romantic comedy, and even horror. “Busy Thinking About Boys” was another shorts program at the festival packed with short films about gay boys/men, featuring “Engaged” a romantic comedy, following Darren, who keeps trying – and failing – to propose to his boyfriend Elliot, starring “POSE” star Ryan Jamaal Swain.
What was also outstanding to me was the growing representation of Black/POC stories. It is safe to say every letter of LGBTQA+ community was represented in some capacity at NewFest, along with various ethnicities and cultures highlighting intersectionality and the fact that there is not just one way to be queer. This is achieved especially with the series “A Luv Tale.” Written and directed by Sidra Smith, this adaptation of her 1999 film of the same title was refreshing and exciting to watch. The screening featured the first 6 episodes of the series, giving an interestingly enjoyable experience of binge watching along with an audience. Although all 6 episodes were screened in a row, I’m sure I am speaking for everyone else in that room when I say I was left wanting more.
We meet Taylor, played by Sheria Irving, is a 20-something Harlem based Photographer who is fresh off of a bad breakup. At a bar one night she meets a beautiful older woman and takes her home to have a night neither of them will forget, however, the woman does not reveal her name. Soon, Taylor finds out exactly who this woman is and the much less than 6 degrees that separate them. This creates a slippery slope of drama as the two have seemed to find love neither of them are allowed to have. Along with the protagonist and her love interest, the stories of the supporting characters hold up as well. “A Luv Tale” is a sexy, exhilarating story as well as an honest representation of the experiences of queer women, friendship, romance, and family turmoil.
Its comedic aspects give it dimension along with issues exhibited such as Mother/Daughter relationships, infidelity, career goals/passion, self-doubt/self-esteem, and so much more. Personally I enjoyed the generational aspect, our protagonist and her friends are in their late 20’s but we also meet the parents of her roommate/best friend Aklia, played by Amber Whittington, and learn a lot about her relationship with them. The stories in “A Luv Tale,” though it seems to be from the point of view of the main character, are presented in a subjective third-person way which makes the audience feel as if we are right there experiencing these moments alongside the characters. The often dim-lit scenes and close-ups and tightly framed shots create a feeling of tension as well as warmth, comfort, and intimacy. Not only does “A Luv Tale” do a phenomenal job representing young Black queer people and our experiences, the series’ backdrop of Harlem plays a big role in the story.
Produced by Essence, “A Luv Tale” is a must-watch and will be streamed via their own streaming service early next year. In the meantime, viewers can find out more information about the series by following on Instagram to catch a future screening. It is the artsy millennial Black queer content we have all been waiting for.
Though 20 years after the release of the original film, this series is right on time. Learn more about everything “A Luv Tale” via the official website.
COVER PHOTO: ‘A Luv Tale’ official website