Top NYC Films of 2023
2023 promises to bring a variety of innovative, informative, and entertaining films from the NYC independent film community to the forefront. Our below picks highlight several newly released films on the festival circuit conceived and created by filmmakers with New York City connections. These compelling picks tell the stories of those who try to fit into their environments, as well as challenge less contemporary points of view. Many of these filmmakers belong to a diverse diaspora of identities within the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, illuminating lesser told stories and experiences. These films have received much critical acclaim and buzz around the independent film circuit, solidifying them as our top New York City films so far.
Directed by A.V. Rockwell
This film is not only A.V. Rockwell’s first feature-length film, but it also won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category at the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival. Rockwell’s narrative portrays the story of a mother navigating homelessness with her son in the foster care system, that is until she kidnaps him so that they can build a life together. Rockwell, an alumna of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, wanted to tell the story of Black women from an inner New York City perspective, providing insight on an experience that is not often portrayed on screen.
Directed by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz
Lungulov-Klotz’s film made its international debut at the Berlin International Film Festival, and it features Lio Mehiel, who was awarded the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award in Acting at Sundance. Mutt features Mehiel as a Latinx transman navigating life in New York City. Lungulov-Klotz, a member of the trans community himself, takes on his first role as director for this film. Chilean and Serbian, Lungulov-Klotz grew up between the two countries, as well as in New York.
Directed by Kristen Lovell & Zackary Drucker
This documentary was awarded Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision. The Stroll recounts the history of New York City’s Meatpacking District, once a central location for NYC’s transgender sex workers before the neighborhood turned into another trendy destination. Lovell and Drucker use their personal connection to the trans community in New York to tell the stories of those who were and are marginalized, as well as the effects of gentrification.
Directed by Rashad Frett
Frett’s film tells the story of a man looking for absolution after he leaves prison. Frett, an NYU MFA candidate, pursued filmmaking after serving in the U.S. Army as a combat medic. The Caribbean American filmmaker is also a cinematographer and editor.
Directed by Mike Donahue
Troy, the titular character in this film, constantly has loud sex, and his escapades are obvious to his neighbors, challenging their own relationship. Donahue moves outside of his typical domain, that of a theater director, onto the screen, in this short.
Directed by Paula Eiselt
Eiselt’s film highlights the fight by Jewish organizations, leaders, and individuals to challenge the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade. In her role as an independent filmmaker, Eiselt seeks out compelling, contemporary stories. In 2022, her film Aftershock took home Sundance’s Special Jury Award in the Impact for Change category.
Directed by Shuli Huang
Shuli Huang’s short film is another work to take home a prize at this year’s Sundance Festival. In the film, Huang travels to his hometown in China to not only discover himself, but to also seek the approval of his mother. This film is the NYU graduate’s second short, and it was also awarded the Queer Palm at the 2022 edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Directed by Roger Ross Williams
This narrative film depicts the true story of a gay Mexican lucha libre wrestler who challenges stereotypes by taking on the role of a typical antihero. The film features international award winner Gael García Bernal in the role of the wrestler Cassandro. Williams, an Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker, marks his debut in scripted features with this film.