“Ammonite” star Kate Winslet will present Lee with the kudos ahead of the movie’s opening night drive-in screening at the Queens Drive-In at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Oct. 16.
The 32nd edition of NewFest, held virtually for the first time, will run through Oct. 27.
The complete lineup will be announced on Sept. 23. Intros for the films are being shot at numerous LGBTQ landmarks in New York City. “The idea behind recording intros in front of LGBTQ landmarks in NYC was to capture the energy of the city and the incredible queer legacy that exists here,” NewFest executive director David Hatkoff tells Variety. “We want to acknowledge and celebrate our community’s history, as well as shine a spotlight on queer gathering spaces, community organizations, and LGBTQ-owned businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.”
Variety caught up with Hatkoff earlier this week to talk about this year’s festival.
How did the World Queer Visionary Award come about and why is Francis Lee so deserving of the honor?
LGBTQ visibility and advocacy remain essential to the global conversation around human rights, and NewFest has always made it a priority to reflect the international nature of New York City by featuring stories from around the world. Francis’ debut film “God’s Own Country” was our International Centerpiece at the 2017 festival, and he’s delivered another stunner this year with “Ammonite,” making him the perfect inaugural recipient for this honor.
Why was it important that NewFest take place this year, even if it has to be virtual? How important is it for audiences to continue to see LGBTQ representation in cinema?
NewFest was founded more than 30 years ago in direct response to the AIDS crisis. With our country battling a pandemic, reckoning with racial injustice, and dealing with an economic downturn ahead of a hugely consequential election for LGBTQ+ lives and rights, maintaining a safe space where queer stories are told and shared has never been more important. Going virtual has given us an incredible opportunity to make sure these stories can be viewed from anywhere in the United States.
Is there a theme to this year’s festival?
With full awareness that the festival is taking place in the weeks leading up to the presidential election, we aim to capture through film, conversation and celebration the spirit of pride and protest that inspired the founding of NewFest. The poster design for this year’s festival, illustrated by queer NYC artist Marcos Chin, reflects this sentiment — that queer stories will not be silenced.
The drive-in opening night is obviously something new.
In a year when the festival will be available virtually in people’s homes throughout the country, we are thrilled to have found a way to begin the festival with an in-person event. One of the most special things about NewFest is the way it brings members of our community together to celebrate our stories, so we felt a drive-in was the best, and safest, way of kicking off 11 amazing days of local and international queer content with our NYC audiences.