NewFest 2017 Filmmakers And Stars Reveal The LGBT Films That Inspire Them The Most

Here's what to watch beyond "Brokeback Mountain."

Even in 2017, Hollywood gets a failing grade for LGBTQ inclusion and representation. There are some bright spots, though, such as big wins for transgender people and characters (especially on cable and streaming services) and wins for diversity at the Emmys, as well as a historic (for many reasons) Best Picture winner at the Oscars. Beyond all of that, one film festival is doing its part to continue providing a safe and loving place for LGBT people and their stories.


NewFest, NYC's LGBT film festival, has been presented annually since 1988 and recently wrapped up its 29th iteration featuring films such as Susanne Bartsch: On Top, God's Own Country, After Louie, and Becks, just to name a few. Shining a light on every aspect of the LGBTQ experience — emphasizing intersectional storytelling and featuring international films as well as shorts — NewFest, in addition to its year-round programming, is a celebration of all things LGBT.

A Plus caught up with some of the filmmakers and stars — from directors such as Vincent Gagliostro and Trudie Styler, as well as stars like Susanne Bartsch and Lena Hall — at this year's festival to get their take on which LGBT film inspires them the most. The result is an eclectic batch of movies both old and new as well as covering all colors of the rainbow. Some of these you'll certainly recognize and others are just asking to be explored.

Anthony&Alex (aka Anthony Caronna and Alexander Smith): Various

Credit: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for NewFest 2017

These are a few that have literally shaped who we are as filmmakers: Polyester, Female Trouble, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Paris is Burning. We both love anything that is unapologetically camp but with a far deeper meaning than expected. Those things have informed who we are as people since childhood. Everything John Waters, everything Todd Solondz, everything John Cameron Mitchell. We see so much of ourselves in this work. We try to find something that is looked at as pop, fluffy, or shallow and dig in beneath the surface to show a far deeper meaning than what is experienced at first judgment. We hope that's what people see when they watch Susanne Bartsch: On Top and most of our work.

Anthony&Alex are the directors of Susanne Bartsch: On Top.

Susanne Bartsch: 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" by Beeban Kidron

Credit: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for NewFest 2017

Oh, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. There are a lot of LGBTQ films I really love — Paris Is Burning, Priscilla [aka The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert] — but David [Barton, Bartsch's former partner], RuPaul, and I were on set ... and had such a great time. There are so many I love, it's hard to pick just the one.

Susanne Bartsch is the star of Susanne Bartsch: On Top.

Vincent Gagliostro: 1997’s "Happy Together" by Wong Kar-wai

I love that [Happy Together] is the antithesis of the sentimental gay love story, and how the end days of a relationship and their last days as expats together play out against the politics of the handing over of Hong Kong to China from Great Britain. Everything is on the brink as everything is now — which makes it so relevant today. And, as the last scene plays against The Turtles' song "Happy Together," the two find their something through weaving themes of regret, love, anger, loss, desire, and even happiness. One running free and the other back home.

Vincent Gagliostro is the director of After Louie.

Lena Hall: 2001’s "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" by John Cameron Mitchell

Credit: Yifu Chien

[Hedwig and the Angry Inch] because not only is it a universal story about finding yourself but its also a kick-ass rock musical lead by a strong transgender character.

Lena Hall is the star of Becks.

Trudie Styler: 1999’s "Boys Don’t Cry" by Kimberly Peirce

Boys Don't Cry because it brought transgender themes into the mainstream world of cinema, making more people aware of transgender issues and beginning a larger conversation about transgender rights.

Trudie Styler is the director of Freak Show.

Sherry Vine: 1981’s "Polyester" by John Waters

Of course, there are many important LGBT films that deal with HIV/AIDS, history, coming out, and transitioning — but in this day and time, I think people need to laugh! So my choice is Polyester. It's one of John Waters' best in my opinion and Divine is brilliant.

Sherry Vine is the star of The Roast of Sherry Vine.


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