NewFest, New York’s leading LGBTQ film and media organization and one of the world’s most respected LGBTQ film festivals, has announced the recipients for the juried award winners for the festival’s 32nd year. Top honors went to writer/director Anna Kerrigan for COWBOYS (Grand Jury Prize, Narrative Feature), director Assel Aushakimova for WELCOME TO THE USA (Grand Jury Prize, International Feature), director Posy Dixon for KEYBOARD FANTASIES: THE BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND STORY (Grand Jury Prize, Documentary Feature), as well as director Cai Thomas for QUEENIE (Grand Jury Prize, New York Short). The announcement was made at the festival’s virtual award ceremony by NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director Of Programming Nick McCarthy.
In addition to the regular juried awards, the Festival also introduced three new juried cash-prize awards as part of NewFest’s new Black Filmmakers Initiative, which was created in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in recognition of the need to create opportunities for queer Black artists and amplify their voices. The Emerging Black LGBTQ+ Filmmaker Award, decided upon by a jury of Black LGBTQ+ film industry professionals, was awarded to three separate directors whose short films screened during NewFest’s 32nd edition of The New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival. The three filmmakers who received the Emerging Black LGBTQ+ Filmmaker Award, which is accompanied by a $1,000 cash prize and Vimeo Pro Account, were writer/director/producer Blanche Akonchong for MERCURY AFROGRADE, co-writers/producers/directors Elegance Bratton & Jovan James for BUCK, and writer/director Terrance Daye for SHIP: A VISUAL POEM.
As announced earlier this week, the Initiative’s Directorial Feature Debut Black LGBTQ+ Filmmaker Award, awarded by NewFest programmers to a Black LGBTQ+ filmmaker whose directorial feature debut is being presented at NewFest’s 32nd edition of the festival, went to filmmaker Olivia Peace for TAHARA. The prize comes with a $2,000 cash prize and a Vimeo Pro Account.
The Black Filmmakers Initiative is generously supported by Blackstone, Ralph Lauren Corporation and Vimeo.
The audience awards for the festival will be announced when the festival closes, on October 27.
NewFest’s New York LGBTQ Film Festival is currently running through October 27 and more than 120 new films from 29 countries are accessible to ticket holders nationwide via NewFest’s on-demand platform throughout the festival. Individual tickets and all-access passes are all available at newfest.org.
The full winners and awards are as follows:
NARRATIVE JURIED AWARDS
The NewFest 2020 Narrative Features jurors were Rhys Ernst (filmmaker, ADAM), Dino-Ray Ramos (editor, Deadline), and Isabel Sandoval (filmmaker, LINGUA FRANCA).
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Narrative Feature
COWBOYS – Director Anna Kerrigan
Jury statement: “Through its warmth, its nuanced approach to moral complexity, and its sensitive direction, this film gave us the feels. This film’s wonderful cast was directed with generosity and grace, and its characters defied stereotypes about both trans issues and small town America. The 2020 NewFest Grand Jury Prize goes to COWBOYS.”
Special Mention, Narrative Feature
CICADA – co-directors Matt Fifer & Kieran Mulcare, and actor/co-writer Sheldon D. Brown
Jury statement: “For its profound and intricately layered exploration of trauma and shame, this queer interracial romance set in Brooklyn during the summer of the Jerry Sandusky abuse trial is elevated by a strikingly assured directorial voice and a poignant lead performance by Sheldon D. Brown. The 2020 NewFest Special Mention goes to CICADA.”
DOCUMENTARY JURIED AWARDS
The NewFest 2020 Documentary Features jurors were Tre’vell Anderson (journalist); Whembley A. Sewell (Editor-In-Chief, them); Barbara Vasconez (Programs Manager, NYWIFT; Documentary Programmer, New York Latino Film Festival).
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Documentary Feature
KEYBOARD FANTASIES: THE BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND STORY – Director Posy Dixon
“We don’t often get to hear the stories of our trans elders through their own words, and to know that we have a living elder whose creativity and gifts have been given the big screen treatment is awe-inspiring. For uplifting an ongoing tale of Black queer and trans history, our Grand Jury Prize goes to Keyboard Fantasies.”
Special Mention, Documentary Feature
YOUR MOTHER’S COMFORT – Director Adam Golub
Jury statement: “An intimate portrait about the undaunted spirit of a legendary trans activist and advocate, we give a Special Mention to Your Mother’s Comfort.”
INTERNATIONAL JURIED AWARDS
Ed Gonzalez (Co-Founder & Film Editor, Slant Magazine); Jazz Tangcay (Variety); Kathy Tu (The New York Times)
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, International Feature
WELCOME TO THE USA – Director Assel Aushakimova
Jury statement: “We would like to award the International Feature prize to WELCOME TO THE USA, directed by Assel Aushakimova. This was a film that we admired, that we felt was a film in the lineup that truly showed us something about gay lives in a corner of the world that we’ve never seen before in film. Adding to that, there is such a beauty to the way that Assel shot the movie, from beautiful intimate close ups to long takes, following Alia who wins a green card to America.”
Special Mention, International Feature
DATING AMBER – Director David Freyne
Jury statement: “We would like to give an honorable mention to DATING AMBER by director David Freyne. From identity crisis to lovable teens, as a jury we decided this beautiful and inspiring coming-of-age story deserves a special mention, so congratulations David!”
SHORT FILM JURIED AWARDS
The NewFest 2020 Short Films jurors were River Gallo (filmmaker, PONYBOI); Jeremy O. Harris (Playwright/Filmmaker); Julio Torres (Writer/Comedian/Actor).
Winner of Grand Jury Prize, Short
QUEENIE – Director Cai Thomas
Jury statement: “The jury would like to award the Grand Jury Prize to Cai Thomas’ Queenie for its delicate and rich documentation of Queenie Lawrence’s attempt to secure LGBT retirement housing at Stonewall House, NYC’s first LGBT affordable elder housing. The jury unanimously felt that the cinematic scope and emotional depth captured in the film’s 19 minutes brought with seeming ease a colossal new figure to the forefront of the cinematic canon.”
Special Mentions, Short
SHIP: A VISUAL POEM – Writer/director Terrance Daye
Jury statement: “The Jury would like to give a special mention to Terrance Daye’s SHIP: A Visual Poem. Daye shows immense promise as a writer and director in this carefully crafted, fully realized short set in the wake of a Black family grappling with homophobia, acceptance, grief and multigenerational trauma.”
SEE YOU SOON – cast James Cusati-Moyer & Jonny Beauchamp
“The jury would also like to give a special mention to SEE YOU SOON for the incredible performances by James Cusati-Moyer and Jonny Beauchamp. Their portrayal of two love-lorn millennials, finding intimacy and connection in a fleeting weekend, was done with such nuance and intensity that stood out to the jury. The performances of Cusati-Moyer and Beauchamp, brilliantly directed by Tyler Rabinowitz, show us the depth and power of queer love and made the jury excited for their future endeavors.”
EMERGING BLACK LGBTQ+ FILMMAKER JURIED AWARDS
The NewFest 2020 Narrative Features jurors were Patrik-Ian Polk (filmmaker, PUNKS, NOAH’S ARC, P-VALLEY); Wellington Love (publicist & producer, THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY).
MERCURY AFROGRADE – Director Blanche Akonchong
Jury statement: “We want to commend you for your ingenuity and willingness to experiment with narrative storytelling in a short film comedy. Your sense of playfulness in depicting the African-American family as flawed, funny and mischievous is a refreshing departure. Your film possesses a bold sense of style and your characters are utterly charming. We can’t wait to see what you do next!”
BUCK – Co-directors Elegance Bratton & Jovan James
Jury statement: “BUCK is a beautifully impactful and deeply moving short film exploring a young, Black gay man’s search for release from his mental health difficulties. The artistic skill exhibited in the writing, directing and cinematography left us hungry for more. And your lead actor gave a stellar performance. It is our pleasure to honor BUCK with this award, and we look forward to more amazing work to come!”
SHIP: A VISUAL POEM – Writer/director Terrance Daye
Jury statement: “In your insightful look at notions around black male masculinity you were able to capture a nuanced portrait of a grieving yet loving African-American family. You demonstrated great thoughtfulness in the care you took when depicting sensitive issues around religion, suicide and coming out. And you displayed inspired originality with your layered storytelling. Both the writing and the performances were honest and compelling. We are so excited to see your next film on the big screen!”