Last night at the 35th annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, filmmaker Todd Haynes was honoured with the NewFest Queer Visionary Award for his remarkable career to date. The award was presented to Haynes by his friend and fellow New Queer Cinema director Tom Kalin who spoke with him on stage at the SVA in Chelsea ahead of a screening of Haynes’ latest feature, May December, starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman. The film, which received its world premiere at Cannes, will open in select theaters on November 17th before debuting on Netflix in the US and Canada on December 1st, 2023.
On the red carpet ahead of the award ceremony, Todd Haynes spoke with The Queer Review about what the honour from NewFest means to him. “This is where my career began as a filmmaker. This is where my identity began as somebody who really wanted to deal with some complex issues in narrative form on film. I was met with a responsiveness to my work early on that had a lot to do with the critical establishment at the time and with very engaged queer audiences. I owe so much to this city and to that entire history, so it means a tremendous amount to have it be celebrated tonight.”
Reflecting on the start of his career, making queer work as a queer filmmaker at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1990s, Haynes shared with The Queer Review, “It was the time and place that I found myself in as somebody who wanted to make films. There was a cultural crisis going on that put all of us into a state where we had to respond in whatever fashion we could and it took activism and it took community and a fierce determination to turn around the outcome of that epidemic. For people like myself, who were dramatic filmmakers, it was an opportunity to address those themes. The first three films that started my career all deal with illness in different ways: Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, followed by my first feature film Poison, and then Safe with Julianne Moore.”
The spellbinding May December sees Haynes reunited with Moore whom the filmmaker describes as “one of the great film actors in my opinion, living or dead”. He went on to describe his collaboration with the Academy Award-winning actor that spans nearly thirty years, adding, “There are really no simple words to sum it. I’ve had the amazing good fortune of crossing paths with her and finding a counterpart in many ways to the kinds of films that I wanted to make in her as an actor. Every time we work together, I’m learning more from her and I think we feel that we understand each other so deeply, so it’s an amazing gift.”
As NewFest marks the 35th anniversary of the New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Haynes shared why he believes such film events remain vital. “Just when we all might have thought that we’d changed the culture”, Haynes told The Queer Review, “We are facing an awesome and frightening reversion back to bigotry and hatred and a free for all around queer lives and identities and trans lives, coupled with attacks on women’s reproductive health and the way we teach our racial history in this country. Everything is at stake and maybe now more than in many, many years, it feels like there’s an urgency and a lot of the same issues that were made volatile during the HIV/AIDS epidemic have returned.”
From December 1st – 31st, 2023, New York’s Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) will present a complete retrospective of Haynes’s features from 1991’s Poison through to this year’s May December, alongside his early shorts, and television work. The Museum will publish a book entitled Todd Haynes: Rapturous Process with a foreword by Julianne Moore, stage a gallery exhibit from November 18th, and present the filmmaker with the Moving Image Award for Career Achievement.
NewFest continues in person in Manhattan and Brooklyn and virtually US-wide until Tuesday October 24th. For the full lineup and to purchase tickets and passes head to NewFest.org.