New York’s LGBT film festival NewFest turns 25

A friend of slain teen Larry King is seen in the documentary "Valentine Road." Credit: Lincoln Center
A friend of slain teen Larry King is seen in the documentary “Valentine Road.” Credit: Lincoln Center

The New York’s premier LGBT festival, NewFest was started in 1988. Things have changed, to put it lightly: witness the inclusion of a film (“Pit Stop”) where small town American gay men can survive without harassment from locals. The series isn’t without exposés of homophobia (“Valentine Road”), nor more than one film involving James Franco.

‘Interior. Leather Bar’
3 Globes
While no one was paying attention, James Franco has directed 20 films. His 16th will only raise more questions about the gay rumors about him. Part documentary, part fiction, it delves into Franco’s obsession with the missing 40 minutes of “Cruising,” William Friedkin’s notorious thriller set amid the gay leather bar scene of late ’70s Greenwich Village. He hopes to recreate the sleazy, often pornographic excised footage with a straight, married man as his tortured Al Pacino. This is a tiny film, only somewhat realized by design, and one whose main interest is no more than what it reveals about its maker. Sat., Sept. 7, 9:15 p.m. (Matt Prigge)

‘Kink’
3 Globes
James Franco produced this documentary about Kink.com, the largest producer of BDSM porn. The film aggressively emphasizes that the staff and models are healthy, well-adjusted people, even as scenes depict some rather rough sexual fantasies and practices. Director Christina Voros’ nonjudgmental film sheds some light on why these folks participate and make their passions public. She documents the directors and models rehearsing scenes, debunking myths and discussing issues of consent, empowerment and feminism. Like BDSM itself, “Kink” is not for everyone, but some folks will enjoy it. (“Kink” plays with the short “Tom’s Gift,” Todd Verow and Charles Lum’s terrific nostalgic look at a once popular cruising spot that was forced to close.) Mon., Sept. 9, 9:45 p.m. (Gary M. Kramer)

‘The Last Match’
4 Globes
This impassioned Cuban drama has the gorgeous, athletic Reinier (Reinier Diaz) having sex with male tourists to earn money for his family and girlfriend. Soon, he’s also engaging in a hot-and-heavy clandestine affair with his soccer buddy, Yosvani (Milton Garcia). Their romantic dreams of being together are, of course, thwarted by some bad decisions (and a contrived script), but until the heavy-handed ending, “The Last Match” is palpably sexy, sweaty and atmospheric. Wed., Sept. 11, 11 p.m. (G.M.K.) 

‘Love Me Not’
4 Globes
“She is my boyfriend. I am her girlfriend,” says the gay Dennis about his friendship-relationship with Aggie, a lesbian, in “Love Me Not.” This lively and quite lovely romantic comedy-drama by Chinese writer/director Gilitte Leung not only flips the script on queer desire, but recasts the leads at its midpoint. It’s a canny move to blur sexuality, fiction and reality, but ably succeeds because of the film’s heartfelt performances and visual panache. Sat., Sept. 7, 1:30 p.m. (G.M.K.)

‘Out in the Dark’
3 Globes
Respectable Israeli lawyer and closeted Palestinian grad student meet at a Tel Aviv gay bar, then gradually become entangled in each other’s messy lives. This terse, moody film does an admirable job of portraying the no-win situation that is being gay and Palestinian, and deserves credit for not pulling any of its punches. You can expect all forms of privilege to be questioned, as well as intelligent discourse and heightened emotional responses afterward. Mon., Sept. 9, 7 p.m. JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. (Jason Shawhan)

‘Pit Stop’
4 Globes
This subtle, shambly peek into the lives of two men, both processing the messy end of a relationship, is a nice, multiethnic look at the adaptive nature of queer desire in small town America, where there’s neither confrontational homophobia nor an organized queer community. Occasional moments of Jarman-like stylization prove very effective, and the performances (including indie wunderkind Amy Seimetz as a devoted ex-wife) are accomplished and complex, including the occasional musical interlude. Sat., Sept. 7, 7 p.m. (J.S.)

‘The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had with My Pants On’
3 Globes
While not exactly fun — lesbian Andy (writer/director Drew Denny) and her BFF Liv (Sarah Hagan) spend the film scattering Andy’s dad’s ashes across the Southwest — the peculiar “Pants” features some inspired set pieces. From a fireworks fight and a stylized film noir audition, to episodes of shoplifting and skinny-dipping, this semi-autobiographical road trip about female bonding (sans sex) is a curious misadventure. Although the film is uneven, Denny is captivating throughout — especially when she watches footage of her late dad projected on the side of a cliff. Sun., Sept. 8, 4:15 p.m. (G.M.K.)

‘Valentine Road’
5 Globes
This stunning documentary may just leave viewers speechless. “Valentine Road” chronicles the death of Larry King, an Oxnard eighth grader who wore heels and makeup, and the subsequent trial of Brandon McInerney, the classmate who shot him twice in the head. Alternating between the passionate supporters for both Larry and Brandon, “Valentine Road” shrewdly forces viewers to confront their own feelings toward juvenile justice issues and LGBT youth. Tues., Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m. (G.M.K.)

‘You and the Night’
3 Globes
“You and the Night” is a stylish and dreamy French import about the secrets and desires of seven strangers who bare their souls and bodies when they meet up for an orgy. The film is consistently stagy, intensely sexual and downright surreal — or all three, as when La Commissaire (Beatrice Dalle) whips the well-endowed Stud (Eric Cantona) in prison. The film ultimately descends into pretentious nonsense, but this wild film is worth a look for the curious queer cinephile. Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m. (G.M.K.)

NewFest 2013
Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
10 Lincoln Center Plaza (unless otherwise noted)
Through Sept. 11


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