The NewFest 2022 program Shorts: Excavating Our History includes both narrative and non-fiction short films that explore the stories of those that came before us and the ways they made our world what it is today. Alex Sallee’s “Dear Kin” (3 min.) explores the relationship of two-spirit Native American weaver Neech Yanagut Yéil to his queer kinspeople past, present, and future, with cinematography by Emma Sheffer and music by Trevor Kowalski. In “Water Rose” (4 min.), an animated film by Sunmin Lee, a woman in a Korean village escapes an abusive marriage thanks to the intercession of a nonbinary river spirit. Lee uses sound, but no dialogue, and a variety of artistic styles to tell a story that approaches the timelessness of a parable.
Pepi Litman (born Pesha Kahane) was a cross-dressing vaudeville singer in late 19th and early-20th-century Europe. She’s also an idol and role model for Ari (Libby Mai), a modern-day drag king and the central character in Sofia Olins’ “Make Me a King” (16 min.), who hopes her polished and heartfelt performances will be enough to win the approval of her conservative parents. Performance is also at the heart of Cameron Kostopoulos’ “Anti-Venom for a Snake” (21 min.), which opens with a darkly threatening drag performance by Marcos, a.k.a. Evita Envy (Jason A. Rodriguez), at the height of the AIDS pandemic. That sets the scene for an experimental film portraying the struggles of Marcos at a time when things are not going well for him onstage or off—he’s has been fired from his club gig, the super has turned off the electricity in his apartment, his soulmate Santi is dead, and his body is dying from the disease that is also killing so many of his peers—so he fights back in the only way he can.
Tom Bakker’s “Ayor” (11 min.) cycles forward and backward in time around its central event: a protest by two young gay men in Amsterdam on Remembrance Day, 1970. A homophobic police interrogator is not amused, but the perps are not backing down, and what they did, why, and what the outcome was is only revealed at the very end of the film. The life and work of pioneering lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer is the subject of Brydie O’Connor’s documentary “Love, Barbara” (15 min.). O’Connor includes many clips from Hammer’s films that demonstrate exactly what she meant by replacing the male gaze with the real beauty of women’s bodies as she perceived them, while clips of Hammer and her partner Florrie Burke reveal the radical freedom and intense partnership of their relationship. Tony Devon Smith and Laura Seay’s “The Baldwin Archives” (9 min.) is based on a 1963 interview Peter Duval Smith (Jordan Gavaris) of the BBC conducted with James Baldwin (Tory Devon Smith), but presents that interview in a highly impressionistic and theatrical manner that goes well beyond simple re-enactment. | Sarah Boslaugh
The program Shorts: Excavating Our History will be screened in-person on Oct. 23 at 1:00 pm at the LGBT Community Center, and is also available on streaming throughout the 34th Annual NewFest, which runs Oct. 13-25. More information about film programs, special events, and passes and tickets is available from the festival web site.