What to Watch During Queerantine

NewFest's recommendations on the best LGBTQ film and TV to stream at home

In accordance with public safety guidelines surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in New York City, NewFest has temporarily paused all in-person screenings and year-round events through mid-June. Representation is still vital, perhaps more than ever in these isolating times – we’re are still committed to our mission of providing queer visibility and connection, now in a digital context. We’ve put together a master list of recommendations on what queer films to stream, updated weekly!

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This Week Only

Streaming through April 12 via Women Make Movies’ Virtual Film Festival

Since 2010, over 100 queer women’s spaces—from dive bars to bookstores and dance halls to health centers—have shuttered across the United States. As concern grows over the death and dearth of these essential social hubs, this documentary takes inventory of those that continue to thrive across the country, inciting a powerful conversation about the importance of community. Whether at Alibi’s Club in Oklahoma City or WOW Café Theatre in our own New York City, queer women are tirelessly making room for one another on barstools, stages, and activism’s front lines.

Sign up to get access, and tune in this Friday, April 10 for a Q&A with director Alexis Clements!

LGBTQ Films Highlighting Essential Workers 

In honor of the essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, this edition of #queerantine recs highlights LGBTQ films featuring queer characters in these vital and courageous positions, ranging from medical professionals to grocery store cashiers to law enforcement to firefighters.

Rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes

Alice Wu’s delightful NYC-set crowd-pleaser tells the story of Wil, a young Chinese-American surgeon who has to reconcile her relationship with her dancer girlfriend (who happens to be her hospital higher-up’s daughter) and her very traditonalist & newly-pregnant mother (played perfectly by superstar Joan Chen). And keep an eye out for Alice Wu’s follow up film, THE HALF OF IT, premiering on Netflix on May 1st.

Rent on Amazon Prime, iTunes and YouTube

A moving and intimate portrait of courage under fire, WOMAN ON FIRE captures the extraordinary life and journey of New York City’s first transgender firefighter. For Brooke Guinan, fighting fires runs in her blood, as both her father and grandfather served in the FDNY. Beyond evoking a heartfelt portrait of change in the American family and workplace, WOMAN ON FIRE is a testament to love, bravery, and loyalty.

Available on Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime

Gus Van Sant’s micro-budget, black-and-white debut feature observes queer desire through the eyes of Walt–a grocery store worker in Portland, Oregon–as he fantasizes about Johnny, an attractive and undocumented young man from Mexico who frequents Walt’s shop. This highly poetic slice-of-life–Van Sant’s debut feature–conjures dreamy imagery that will send your mind and heart into blissful reverie.

GRETA (2019)
Watch on Amazon Prime

A 70-year-old nurse in Brazil takes in a wounded stranger so he can give the man’s hospital bed to his transgender friend in this compassionate drama. Encompassing multiple themes that subtly address universal social issues — including age, sexuality, gender and criminal life — GRETA is an intimate story of human relationships and the role of caretaking.

THE WIRE (2002 – 2008)
Available on HBO GO

This highly-acclaimed series set in Baltimore understands how pieces of a city fit together, both socially and economically, and features Sonja Sohn as proudly out lesbian police detective Kima Greggs (among other groundbreaking queer characters like Omar Little). If you’ve never seen what Rolling Stone ranked #2 on the list of the Greatest TV Shows of All Time, now is the perfect moment to binge this groundbreaking HBO original series.

5B (2019)
Available on Amazon Prime

The inspirational true story of everyday heroes, nurses and caregivers who took immediate and extraordinary action to comfort, protect and care for the patients of the first AIDS ward unit in the United States. This stirring documentary is told through first-person testimony of these nurses and caregivers who built Ward 5B in 1983 at San Francisco General Hospital, their patients, loved ones, and staff who volunteered to create care practices based in humanity and holistic well-being during a time of great uncertainty. The result is an uplifting yet candid and bittersweet monument to a pivotal moment in American history and a celebration of quiet heroes, nurses and caregivers worthy of renewed recognition.

Recommendations from NewFest Alums

What our filmmakers are watching

Watch on NBC and Hulu

There’s a lot to love about this classic NYC comedy series, especially Rosa Diaz, the iconic bisexual detective played by Stephanie Beatriz. If quarantine has you missing the New York we all know and love, come for the lighthearted cop-squad antics and stay for the queer Latina representation.

Recommended by Gaby Dunn (DICK SISTERS, NewFest 2018)

New York Premiere, NewFest 2019
Watch on Showtime and Hulu

NewFest Alums recommending NewFest Alums just warms our little queer hearts. Abby McEnany stars as a 45-year-old self-identified fat, queer dyke from Chicago whose misfortune and despair unexpectedly lead her to a vibrantly transformative relationship. This uniquely human comedy series has been renewed for a second season, so now is the time to catch up.

Recommended by Gaby Dunn (DICK SISTERS, NewFest 2018)

Watch on Netflix

This British dark comedy-drama follows two 17-year-olds on the run from their parents, one of whom believes he’s a psychopath. However, the show also includes a lesbian cop duo who are following the teens on their escapist road trip – Autostraddle made a great case for a spinoff, and we can’t help but agree.

Recommended by Mike Doyle (ALMOST LOVE aka SELL BY, NewFest 2019)

Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes

NewFest 2019’s Opening Night film, ALMOST LOVE is a breath of quintessential NYC wit and comedy in this troubling time. 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. The cast also features Kate Walsh and Patricia Clarkson.

Trans Day of Visibility (March 31)

In honor of Trans Day of Visibility, check out these trans stories told by trans people.

Available on Amazon Prime

Written and directed by Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARSHA! is a short film about iconic transgender artist and activist Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and her life in the hours before she ignited the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.

Opening Night, OutCinema 2019
Available on Hulu

This highly anticipated comedy from Emmy-nominated director Rhys Ernst (TRANSPARENT) and the Oscar-nominated producers of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a new queer classic in the making. It’s 2006 and awkward high schooler Adam decides to spend the summer in New York City with his cool older sister, who is highly engaged in the queer activist scene. He receives an edifying crash course on friendship, romance, and community through a distinctly queer lens in this crowd-pleasing coming-of-age tale, whose ensemble features MJ Rodriguez (FX’s POSE), Leo Sheng, Nicholas Alexander, Margaret Qualley, and more.

Grand Jury Prize, Documentary Feature, NewFest 2009
Available on Vimeo and Kanopy

Returning home to a small town in Montana for her high school reunion, filmmaker Kimberly Reed hopes for reconciliation with her long-estranged adopted brother, Marc. But along the way she uncovers stunning revelations, including a surprise relationship to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, intense sibling rivalries and unforeseeable twists of plot and gender that force them to face challenges no one could imagine.

Available on Kanopy

While we patiently await DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN, Sam Feder’s latest project, we’re revisiting this landmark documentary. Trailblazing performance artist-theorist-activist Kate Bornstein takes us on a mind-bending quest through her world dismantling gender and seeking answers to the age-old question: What makes life worth living? Kate Bornstein is…captures rollicking public performances and painful personal revelations bearing witness to the pioneering gender outlaw who inhabits a space between male and female with wit, style, and astonishing candor. 

Director of Programming Nick McCarthy’s Recommendations

Available to watch on Amazon Prime

Big & Little Edie were the OG Queens of Quarantine–they made it look hip before it was socially responsible and government-enforced in this landmark documentary from the Maysles Brothers. Cuddle up with your cat or raccoon, make tea for two or two for tea, and experience life as a Hamptons shut-in with these vibrant now-queer icons. Bonus double-feature: follow the doc with the HBO biopic from 2009 with also-queer-icons Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.

SAFE (1995)
Available on Criterion Channel

Julianne Moore gives one of her best performances as a Connecticut housewife who comes down with an undiagnosable environmental allergy. Is the allergy attributed to suburban malaise, a metaphor on AIDS, or a larger global concern? Queer filmmaker Todd Haynes’ stunningly atmospheric meditation on isolation and modern illness seems more prescient than ever.

Available on Netflix

NewFest 2017’s International Centerpiece is a gorgeous and enduring tale of blossoming love between a farmer’s son and a Romanian migrant worker. Beautifully capturing the expansive space and foggy textures of the English countryside, this assured debut marked the arrival of British writer-director Francis Lee, whose upcoming film AMMONITE features a romance between Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Social distancing never felt so steamy.

MAN MADE (2018)
Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes

NewFest 2018’s Audience Award winner, this deeply human doc from director T Cooper and executive producer Tea Leoni follows four men as they prepare for Trans FitCon, the only bodybuilding competition exclusively for trans men. Glimpse the intimate relationships between these men and their partners, family, and children as they train throughout the years and experience triumphant gestures of acceptance and understanding of the shared struggles among them as they take the stage and embody their true selves.

ANNE+ (2019)
Audience Award, NewFest 2015
Available to watch on YouTube

Looking for a binge? Live vicariously through the ups-and-downs (or club nights and hangovers) of the titular twentysomething lesbian in this delightful Dutch webseries. You’ll be singing the opening song to yourself in no time – plus, Season 2 is on its way this year, and we all need something to look forward to right now.

Audience Award Winners

Stream these five Audience Award-winning films from NewFests past! 

Audience Award, NewFest 2016
Available to watch on Amazon Prime and Kanopy

A darkly comic farce about two lesbian couples doing their best to navigate a social landmine during an awkward lunch together. When new partners Jasmine and Penn find an anonymous suicide note in their friends’ bedroom, they hatch a plan to figure out who wrote it.

Audience Award, NewFest 2015
Available to watch on Hulu

Impressionable young painter Charlie is consumed with best friend and longtime crush Sebastian, whose father’s Bernie Madoff-esque scandal has left him penniless in Joey Kuhn’s romantic drama set in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Audience Award, NewFest 2018
Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Bursting with the colorful street style & music of Nairobi’s vibrant youth culture, RAFIKI is a tender love story between two young women in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality.

Audience Award, NewFest 2017
Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Impressionable young painter Charlie is consumed with best friend and longtime crush Sebastian, whose father’s Bernie Madoff-esque scandal has left him penniless in Joey Kuhn’s romantic drama set in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Audience Award, NewFest 2015
Available to watch on Kanopy

Nneka Onuorah’s fascinating documentary examines what happens when African­ American lesbians discriminate against each other over violations of the strict code that separates butches from femmes.