QFest St. Louis | 05.04-10.2023, Hi-Pointe Theatre

The 16th annual QFest St Louis will run May 4-10, 2023, with all screenings at the Hi-Pointe Theatre. The festival this year includes 8 narrative features, 2 documentary features, 15 narrative shorts, and one documentary short, with nine countries represented among the films: Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Morocco, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

The Festival opens on Thursday with a screening of Maryam Touzani’s The Blue Caftan (05/04/2023, 7 pm), a Moroccan film honored as that country’s submission for Best International Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards. Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal), owners of a custom caftan shop, hire an apprentice, Youssef (Ayoub Messioui) to help with the business. While Youself is a talented young man who takes quickly to tailoring and embroidery, Halim’s growing attraction to him threatens to upset the couple’s existence.  

Emanuele Crisalese’s L’immensita (05/05/2023, 7:00 pm) stars Penélope Cruz as Clara, wife to Felice (Vincenzo Amat) and mother to Adriana (Luana Giuliana), who has recently declared she is a boy and her name is Andrew. It’s the 1970s in Rome and Clara is also chafing against the constraints of traditional Italian Catholic society. L’immensita was nominated for both the Golden Lion and the Queer Lion at the 2022 Venice Film Festival.

Saturday features four programs, beginning with a free program of short films (Queer Shorts 1, 05/06/2023, 1:00 pm; tickets are required but can be obtained for free from the festival web site). Drag legend Charles Busch both co-directs and stars in The Sixth Reel (05/06/2023, 4:00 pm), playing a movie collector who discovers a reel of film from a Tod Browning horror film previously considered lost. The star-studded cast includes regular Busch collaborator Julie Halson, Margaret Cho, Dee Hoty, Tim Daly, and André De Shields.

 D. Smith’s documentary Kokomo City (05/06/2023, 6:15 pm), features four black trans sex workers in New York and Georgia who talk about their lives and their relationship with American society. Gregg Araki’s 1995 The Doom Generation (05/06/2023, 8:30 pm), presented in a 4K restoration, follows the adventures of teenagers Jordan White (James Duval) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) on a road trip for the ages with the mysterious drifter Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech).

Another free shorts program (Queer Shorts 2, 05/07/2023, 1:00 pm; free tickets available from the festival web site) kicks off Sunday’s programming. Next up is Peter McDowell’s Jimmy in Saigon (05/07/2023, 4:15 pm), a documentary chronicling the director’s efforts to find out what happened to his brother, who died mysteriously at age 24 after serving in Vietnam. Andrea Pallaoro’s Monica (05/07/2023, 7:00 pm) features Trace Lysette in the title role as a trans woman who returns home to care for her ailing mother (Patricia Clarkson), and in the process renegotiates her relationship between her identity and her family and hometown.

There’s plenty of action both on and off the field in Matt Carter’s In from the Side (05/08/2023, 7:00 pm), which centers on members of a gay  rugby team in London. Mark (Alexander Lincoln), who plays on the club’s B squad, crosses more than one line when he falls for Warren (Alexander King) from the A squad.

The central character in Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean (05/09/2023, 7:00 pm) is a lesbian schoolteacher (Rosy McEwen) who stays firmly in the closet during the workday (and in Margaret Thatcher’s England, can you blame her?) but lets her true self out after hours in Newcastle’s gay scene. Then one of her pupils spots her in a gay bar and threatens to bring down her entire world.

QFest 2023 comes to a close with Amanda Kramer’s Please Baby Please (05/10/2023, 7:00 pm), which stars Andrea Riseborough and Harry Melling as a newly married couple whose world is turned upside down by a violent street gang called the Young Gents—in a good way that has them questioning sex and gender roles and the society in which they live. | Sarah Boslaugh

QFEST runs May 4-10 at the Hi-Pointe Theatre. Single film tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for Cinema St. Louis members and students with valid current photo IDs. Five-film passes are available for $65 ($50 for Cinema St. Louis members) and All-Access passes are available for $140 ($105 for Cinema St. Louis members). Both shorts programs are free but require tickets available from the festival web site.

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