Still from Down Dog

Short Film by Columbia Filmmakers to Screen at the NewFest New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival

BY Cody Beltis , October 8, 2020

Down Dog, a short film directed by student Shae Xu, written by alumna Claire Brooks ’20 and produced by alumna Mackenzie Lyle '20 and student I-Hui Lee, was screened virtually at the Urbanworld Film Festival through September 27, and will screen at the NewFest New York LGBTQ + Film Festival from October 16-27. NewFest is New York’s largest presenter of LGBTQ film & media and the largest convener of LGBTQ audiences in the city. Their mission is to give voice and visibility to the full scope of the LGBTQ experience through films and programs that entertain, educate, and empower.


Down Dog, a trans-lives romance, follows inclusive yoga instructor Tammy, who ponders the difficulties of disclosure, and considers the societal mandate of talking to her new beau Marcus about her trans experience. The film is available for streaming at OutFest Now, is the recipient of the Iris Prize, and was an official selection of the 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival. 


Founded in 1988 in direct response to the AIDS crisis, The New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival (NewFest) has been a tentpole of NYC’s queer cultural scene. In the subsequent years, NewFest has expanded into a film and media organization with year-long programs to serve all facets of the LGBTQ+ community. The Festival presented the world theatrical premiere of Paris is Burning, and presented the New York premieres of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, High Art, Boy Erased, God’s Own Country, Celluloid Closet, And Then We Danced, Rafiki, The Watermelon Woman, Trevor, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. Pass and ticket holders of the festival will get access to 120 films, panels and virtual events. 


Born in 1989, Xu is a Chinese filmmaker based in New York and Shanghai. Her photos and experimental videos have been exhibited in gallery spaces, including a solo project in the Art Pavilion of the MoCA Shanghai. Xu’s narrative works unveil a feminist’s concern in a fast-growing world; her short films were screened in the China Independent Film Festival, the Pan African Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles, Urbanworld Film Festival and NewFest the New York LGBT Film Festival. Xu is currently working on her first feature film Yellow Plum Rain.


Brooks is a graduate of NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she designed an interdisciplinary degree titled Film, Storytelling, and the Global Imagination. After graduation, Brooks moved to Los Angeles to work on the creative marketing campaigns for The Lorax and Despicable Me 2 at Illumination Entertainment under Chris Meledandri '77. While in LA, Brooks became the Managing Director of LA art collective, CARTEL. In this capacity, she produced underground music festivals, pop-ups, and site-specific art installations. Brooks got her start in entertainment thanks to an internship on Broadway with producer Eric Falkenstein (The History Boys, Thurgood). 


Lyle is a producer from Los Angeles, California. After obtaining her Economics BA degree from Syracuse University, she received her MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University. During her career at Columbia, she produced and directed short films in Navajo Nation, New York, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. She is currently completing post production on an experimental short film she produced in Paris, Le Retour de Jehan Alain, and plans on producing both short and long form media in the near future.


Lee is a writer-director based in Taipei and New York. Her latest short, The Menarche, was an official selection in Hawaii Film Festival, and also won the Best MFA Short Screenplay in Ivy Film Festival, the Best Screenplay in 2019 New Era Film Festival, and is a finalist of Best Short Screenplay in Atlantic Film Festival. The film is also an official selection in the 26th Austin Film Festival, and is a non-competition short film of 2019 Taipei Film Festival. She obtained her BA degree in History from National Taiwan University. Her work concerns human ethics, time and memory relating to social class and gender.

Still from Down Dog