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What to see at NewFest 2016

This year's LGBTQ fest is on.

It’s Here. It’s Queer. It’s NewFest, running Oct. 20 through 25. Here are five films presenting LGBTQ life playing in this year’s program:

‘Esteros’
4 Globes
In the tender, Argentine import “Esteros,” Matías (Ignacio Rogers) unexpectedly reconnects with his openly gay childhood friend Jerónimo (Esteban Masturini) after a decade apart. While Matías is dating Rochi (Renata Calmon), his desire for Jerónimo is rekindled when the guys revisit the estuaries where they bonded as teenagers. Toggling back and forth between the guys’ childhood and adulthood, Esteros sensitively shows how Matías grapples with his emotions, as well as his suppressed love for Jerónimo. The attractive leads make this slow burn romance simmer with sexual tension before the expected passions consume them. Esteros may be a simple coming out story, but it is still effective, electric, and satisfying.

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‘Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America’
4 Globes
Moises Serrano is a queer and undocumented 24-year-old in North Carolina who is unafraid and unashamed. This inspiring documentary recounts his fight for equality and inclusive immigration reform, as well as his efforts to realize his dream of attending college. Serrano talks eloquently about the racism, fear and depression he, his family members and other undocumented immigrants face, even as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) offers some protection. Moises’ activism is very moving, and the support he receives — from his family, his boyfriend, and others — is heartfelt is powerful. “Forbidden” is a timely and touching documentary.

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‘Hunky Dory’
3 Globes
Sidney (co-writer Tomas Pais, striking in the lead role) is a bisexual drag queen who can barely take care of himself, much less his 11 year-old son George (Edouard Holdener). This low-budget comedy-drama is actually quite charming, as Sidney makes one bad decision after another, from picking up Bunny (Nora Rothman), a prostitute, to impinging on — and irritating — friends and strangers for cash. Sidney may be pathetic, but he is quite sympathetic, especially when he describes “feeling trapped between two worlds” — an apt metaphor for his downbeat life.

‘Miles’
2 Globes
This bland drama, set in 1999 Pondley, IL, has gay high school senior Miles (Tim Boardman) eager to go to college in Chicago. His best option is to get a volleyball scholarship. However, the Pondley High team is all-girls. While “Miles” thankfully doesn’t stoop to having its title character don drag to play, his presence on the team causes a controversy that is more muted than heated. Writer/director Nathan Adloff never makes this mediocre family film’s message about having the courage to “do what feels right” particularly rousing.

‘Suicide Kale’
2 Globes
When Billie (Jasika Nicole) and her wife Jordan (Brianna Baker) have Jasmine (writer Brittani Nichols) and her new girlfriend Penn (Lindsay Hicks) over for lunch, what begins amiably quickly becomes uncomfortable for everyone. The elephant in the room is a suicide note Jordan hides and Jasmine finds. As such, the talk (and talk and talk) about happiness and death should be freighted with meaning, but the film is too slight to have any real impact. The actors are likeable, but most of the scenes feel improvised and unconvincing. There are some witty lines and keen observations about love and relationships, but “Suicide Kale” is mostly amateur hour.

NewFest runs from Oct. 20 through Oct. 25.For tickets, venues and showtimes, and more visit the site.

Follow Gary M. Kramer on Twitter @garymkramer

 
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