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LGBTQ Film Fest Newfest Reveals Opening, Closing, and U.S. Centerpiece Selections

Wednesday Sep 18, 2019
'Sell By'
'Sell By'  

NewFest, one of the world's most venerable and respected LGBTQ film festivals, has announced that they will kick off the festival's 31st edition with the New York premiere of Mike Doyle's Manhattan-set ensemble rom-com "Sell By," featuring an eclectic cast including Scott Evans (Netflix's "Grace and Frankie"), Kate Walsh (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"), Academy Award-nominee and Emmy Award-winner Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Buteau (Netflix's "Tales of the City") and Augustus Prew ("High-Rise"), and will close the festival with the New York premiere of Rodrigo Bellott's award-winning film "Tu Me Manques," which was recently announced as Bolivia's Best International Feature Film selection for the 2019 Academy Awards. NewFest, New York's leading top LGBTQ film festival, will take place from October 23rd to 29th, 2019. The announcement was made by NewFest's Executive Director David Hatkoff and Director of Programming Nick McCarthy.

Hatkoff and McCarthy also revealed today that the festival's U.S. Centerpiece will be the New York premiere of the stylized period-piece drama "To The Stars" from director Martha Stephen (co-director of the award-winning drama "Land Ho!"), starring Kara Hayward ("Moonrise Kingdom"), Malin Akerman (Showtime's "Billions"), Jordana Spiro (Netflix's "Ozark") and Emmy Award-winner Tony Hale (HBO's "Veep").

"As we were reminded during this year's World Pride and 50th anniversary of Stonewall, New York City is and always has been the epicenter of queer life and queer liberation," said NewFest Executive Director David Hatkoff. "We are thrilled to bookend New York's 31st annual LGBTQ Film Festival, our biggest and boldest yet, with two magnificent films set in our vibrant, diverse, international city."

Speaking on the selections, NewFest Director of Programming Nick McCarthy said, "These three outstanding works of LGBTQ cinema showcase a range of genres and tones while uniformly featuring dynamic ensembles and strong directorial vision; from contemporary New York City to '60s Heartland America and back to our grand city, these vital stories explore and celebrate the power of art, identity, visibility, and--above all--finding one's community. We can't wait for New York audiences to gather and experience them on the big screen together."

NewFest's Opening Night selection "Sell By" is a romantic comedy that follows a group of friends who individually and with each other's support try to navigate their complicated relationships in New York City. Nobody said love was easy. Adam (Scott Evans) and Marklin (Augustus Prew) seem to have the world in the palm of their hands, but their love life could use improvement. Marklin's rise as a social media influencer, and Adam's struggle to switch from ghost painting to creating his own work has caused a rift between them. As their five-year relationship grows colder, they must decide whether to go all-in or explore other options. Meanwhile, Cammy (Michelle Buteau) is failing to find her way in the world of online dating, and Haley (Zoe Chao) has to fend off an almost-legal student who's hot for teacher.

"Sell By" is a quintessential New York romantic comedy, about the ups, downs, ins and outs of navigating love and life in the city," says Director Mike Doyle. "It's a real honor to not only open NewFest, one of the best showcases for LGBTQ film, but to have our New York premiere here as well. It feels like a real homecoming."

NewFest's Closing Night selection, the award-winning drama "Tu Me Manques," won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at Outfest this year and is Bolivia's selection for Best International Feature Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. "Tu Me Manques" is Director/Writer/Producer Rodrigo Bellott's film adaptation of his 2015 play which was originally meant to stage for one night but was extended for an unprecedented four months due to popular demand. The film is an emotional exploration of three men's struggles to reconcile identity and heritage. Following his son Gabriel's death, Jorge travels from conservative Bolivia to New York City to confront Gabriel's boyfriend Sebastian. While the two battle over Jorge's inability to accept his son, Sebastian channels his grief into a bold new play in honor of his lost love, in which Gabriel's inner turmoil is transformed into an eye-popping gay fantasia.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have our New York Premiere at NewFest and even more honored to be the Closing Night Film", says Director/Producer Rodrigo Bellott. "This is a film about a young closeted gay man who immigrates from his conservative, oppressive and homophobic home country and finds love and acceptance to be free amidst the colorful multiethnic sexual diversity of New York City. New York offers the possibility to be unique, authentic and different - and is where I, as a gay Bolivian immigrant, found identity, love, and friendship - where I've slowly mended my broken heart and turned the experience into art."

NewFest's U.S. Centerpiece Film, "To The Stars," follows a bespectacled and reclusive teen, Iris, who endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates in a god-fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma. Iris finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school who hones in on Iris's untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie's mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself.

"I'm elated to bring "To The Stars" to New York City, and I can't help but long for our queer characters from 1961 rural America to be real and alive today to experience Newfest," says Director Martha Stephens.

Ticket redemption for Festival Passholders begins at 12 PM EST on Friday, September 20th. There will be a Member Pre-Sale for tickets on Tuesday, September 24th. Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday, September 27th. For more information, to purchase a festival pass, or to become a member, go to newfest.org.

NewFest is presented by HBO, and would like to thank the following sponsors: Hyundai (Signature Sponsor), Beam Suntory (Premier Sponsor), Room & Board (Premier Sponsor); Ace Hotel New York, Norwegian Airlines, and Amida Care (Official Sponsors); and Comcast NBCUniversal, T-Mobile, and Twitter (Supporting Sponsors).

NewFest is grateful to the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the New York City Council, and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) for their generous support of our programs.


Opening Night Film & Party

"Sell By"
Dir. Mike Doyle, USA, 2019, 94 mins
New York Premiere

Delivering laugh-out-loud humor alongside wry truths, "Sell By" is proof that witty writing and a strong ensemble are a true treasure of New York City filmmaking. Actor Mike Doyle's delightful directorial debut explores the lives and loves of a group of friends as they navigate their careers and relationships amidst the beating heart of our vast metropolis.

Having been together for five years, Adam (Scott Evans, "Grace And Frankie") and rising social media celeb Marklin (Augustus Prew, "Special") are faced with confronting their commitment to each other, while both Cammy (Michelle Buteau, "Tales Of The City") and Haley (Zoe Chao) face their own challenges with companionship. Rounding out the lively and talented cast under Doyle's assured direction is Kate Walsh ("Grey's Anatomy") and Academy Award-nominee Patricia Clarkson ("High Art"). Imbued with a can-do charm so becoming of our great metropolis, "Sell By" captures both how we let ourselves go, as well as how we grow closer to those we love.


U.S. Centerpiece

"To The Stars"
Dir. Martha Stephens, USA, 2019, 109 mins
New York Premiere

Set in the conservative, bobby-socked setting of a 1960s Oklahoma high school, mysterious cosmopolitan new girl Maggie (Liana Liberato)—a coveted recruit among the popular girls—takes an unexpected shining to Iris (Kara Hayward, "Moonrise Kingdom"), a withdrawn pariah. As the two teens grow closer, we learn the curious circumstances behind Maggie's sudden arrival in the small Dust Bowl town.

NewFest's 2015 Centerpiece "Carol" flung us out of space, and this year's blast from the past takes us on a celestial journey through queer friendship and outcast identity. Filmed entirely in black-and-white, Martha Stephens' gorgeously textured feature boasts formidable performances by its young cast, in addition to dramatic supporting appearances by Malin Åkerman ("Billions", "The Comeback") and Emmy Award-winner Tony Hale ("Veep", "Arrested Development").


Closing Night Film & Party

"Tu Me Manques"
Dir. Rodrigo Bellott, USA/Bolivia, 2019, 110 mins
New York Premiere

After his son Gabriel passes away, conservative Bolivian patriarch Jorge (Oscar Martínez) accidentally Skypes Gabriel's ex-boyfriend Sebastian (Fernando Barbosa), leading him on a journey from Bolivia to New York City in search for the truth about his child. Based on writer/director Rodrigo Bellott's own electrifying and influential play, "Tu Me Manques" is an inspiring story that celebrates community, love, and storytelling, and excavates both familial and international homophobia with tremendous tact and care.

Bolivia's official Oscar submission for Best International Feature Film, Bellott's spellbinding and playfully shot film explores the connections between art and memory with extraordinary candor and confidence, and features a varied cast of international superstars (including Pedro Almodóvar favorite Rossy De Palma). This bold debut and recipient of Outfest's U.S. Screenwriting Prize is a revelation and serves as a powerful love letter to New York City, Bolivia, and the function of art to provide LGBTQ visibility and save lives throughout the world.


About NewFest

Founded in 1988, NewFest: New York's Film and Media Arts Organization presents year-round screenings and events, including the annual New York LGBT Film Festival. NewFest's mission is to give voice and visibility to the full scope of New York's LGBTQ community through films and programs that entertain, educate, and empower. In bringing diverse audiences and filmmakers together, NewFest creates spaces and conversations that have the capacity to open minds, shift cultural bias, and create positive change. NewFest is dedicated to bringing together filmmakers and audiences to build a community that encompasses the wide range of representations of the LGBTQ experience. We are committed to nurturing and presenting LGBTQ stories and emerging filmmakers. For more information, visit www.NewFest.org.


About HBO

HBO® is one of the most respected and innovative entertainment brands in the world, serving iconic, award-winning programming to 142 million subscribers globally. A subsidiary of WarnerMedia, HBO is the world's most successful pay-TV service with an extensive array of programming that includes some of the most notable titles to be on television including "Game of Thrones"®, "Big Little Lies"®, "Westworld"®, "The Sopranos"®, "Sex and the City"®, "Band of Brothers"®, and "The Wire"®. In the United States, HBO ® and sister network Cinemax® are available across multiple platforms including HBO On Demand®, Cinemax On Demand®, HBO GO® and MAX GO®, as well as HBO NOW®. Internationally, HBO branded services, including television networks and the standalone streaming product HBO GO®, are available in more than 70 countries across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. HBO and Cinemax programming is also sold into more than 150 countries worldwide.

Film Fests and Awards 2019

This story is part of our special report titled "Film Fests and Awards 2019." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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