Several films by Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program alumni were selected to screen at NewFest, New York's premiere LGBT Film Festival, which runs July 21 to 28.
Circumstance, edited by alumna Andrea Chignoli ('07SOA), screens twice at the festival. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Maryam Keshavarz's debut film is a lush, innovative coming-of-age story set in the underground art scene of Tehran. Iranian teenager Atafeh and her best friend, Shireen, are defining the evolving boundaries of their intense friendship when Atafeh's brother Mehran returns home from a drug rehabilitation center and announces he's joining the morality police. When he makes the girls' questionable friendship his target, Atafeh finds herself the victim of her brother's dangerous obsession.
Madeleine Olnek's ('09SOA) Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, co-produced by Cynthia Arzaga Fredette ('09SOA) and Laura Terruso, was also selected to screen at NewFest. The film's crew includes director of photography Nathaniel Bouman ('08SOA) and production designer Rebecca Conroy ('10SOA). An official selection of 2011 Sundance, the Best Feature winner at the Honolulu Rainbow Fest, and Honorable Mention winner for Best First Feature at Frameline, Olnek's film was called a "sweet, funny, clever comedy" by Variety. The story follows three lesbian aliens sent to Earth. Their mission is to have their hearts broken by earthlings so their overactive emotions won’t destroy the ozone of their planet. As the fetching extraterrestrials search for romance on the New York lesbian dating scene, one finds love with Jane, an eager stationery store clerk who is oblivious to the fact that she’s dating an alien. Olnek's shorts Hold Up and Countertransference screened at NewFest in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
The Green, produced by Molly Pearson ('09SOA), also screens twice at NewFest. It won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and also screened at Frameline, Flickers, and the USA Film Festival. Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson, "30 Rock") and Michael (Broadway star Jason Butler Harner) left NYC behind for a small town in Connecticut, but life there is anything but simple when Michael is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student at his job. As the men search for a motive behind the accusation, the escalating homophobia in the community and a shameful secret from Michael's past threaten to pull their lives apart. The top-notch cast also features Julia Ormond, Bill Sage, Karen Young and Illeana Douglas.
Loop Planes, directed by Robin Wilby ('10SOA) and produced by Julie Buck ('11SOA), screens at NewFest after also screening at Tribeca, SXSW, and OUTFEST, among several other festivals. In the film, 13-year-old Nick lives with his dad at an amusement park. But today, with the arrival of his mother and a pink-haired girl, Nick is in for the ride of his life.
Professor Tom Kalin and adjunct faculty member Rose Troche presented the first annual New Fest Visionary Award to producer Christine Vachon during the festival's opening night. Vachon produced Kalin's Swoon, among other films of the New Queer Cinema movement.