Circumstance, a bisexual film set in Iran, won the NewFest Best Narrative Feature Award and Habana Muda, a Cuban documentary with bisexual themes, won a Special Jury Prize for Documentary Feature. NewFest is New York City’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film festival.
Circumstance, written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz, also won the Audience Award at Sundance and was my favorite narrative film at NewFest. Think The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love meets Fire meets Sex, Lies and Videotape. It’s about two Iranian high school girls, Atafeh and Shireen, in an intense friendship that gradually becomes more, in addition to boyfriends they are rebelling socially, sexually and politically with. They visit underground DVD shops and dance clubs, smoke cigarettes, drink and are working on a secret project to encourage rebellion amongst their peers against the strict rules of Iranian society. Atafeh’s older brother comes home from rehab, and becomes obsessed with his sister’s friend Shireen. Despite their liberal parents, he becomes increasingly religious and joins the morality police, spying on the girls and reporting them for some of their rebellious activities, in order to force Shireen into marriage with him. To hide her secret pregnancy and stay close to Atafeh, Shireen accepts, but develops feelings for the brother too. Circumstance hits select theaters August 26.
Habana Muda, directed by Eric Brach, is described this way on NewFest’s website:
Chino is a deaf man struggling to raise two children with his wife in Cuba. All of the couple’s financial troubles could soon disappear because Chino has a well-off boyfriend, Jose, in Mexico. Jose, who works for a Deaf organization, visits Chino in Cuba and teaches him Mexican sign language. When the film begins, the plan has already been hatched and everyone is on board, but soon enough, we begin to wonder if this unique arrangement can ever really work out.
I didn’t have the chance to see Habana Muda at NewFest, due to conflicting screenings, but am putting it on the top of my “films to see” list.
Here is NewFest’s press release about the film awards, including the full list of winners.
NewFest proudly honors the winners of the 2011 NewFest Awards. All were presented last night at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, during the festival’s annual Closing Night ceremony.
“With first-rate films at venues across our great city, the 23rd Annual NewFest was a huge success,” said NewFest Director of Programming Bryce J. Renninger. “We are pleased to screen and reward so many great films that are pushing the boundaries of filmmaking and representing queer identities and issues in new and provocative ways.”
Circumstance, director: Maryam Keshavarz
Zoe Heran, Tomboy
Bélgica Castro, Old Cats
Gone, Directors: John and Gretchen Morning
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
Habana Muda, Director: Eric Brach
BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY
Smut Capital of America, Director: Michael Stabile
BEST NARRATIVE SHORT
Fourplay: San Francisco, Director: Kyle Henry
Oh My God!, Director: Anne Sewitsky
NEWDRAFT SCREENPLAY COMPETITION
Boys in the Trees, Screenwriter: Nicholas Verso
July Flame, Screenwriter: Anton De Ionno
BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE (tie)
The Wise Kids, Director: Stephen Cone
Turtle Hill, Brooklyn, Director: Ryan Gielen
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
One Night Stand, Directors: Elisabeth Sperling & Trish Dalton
BEST SHORT FILM
The Devotion Project: More Than Ever, Director: Tony Osso