Silicon Valley Queer Film Festival

Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Sarria


Country of Origin: USA

In 1961, Jose Sarria is the first openly gay man to run for public office in the United States – and he runs in heels!

As a drag performer at a San Francisco beatnik bar, The Black Cat Café, the former World War II veteran, decides to run for City Supervisor after local officials threaten to shut down all the gay bars.

Jose’s opera parodies bring in hundreds of gay clientele every weekend, and he exploits that fame to inspire the fractured community to unite.

Jose’s cabaret platform serves as a podium to teach his closeted customers to not only believe in his slogan, ‘Gay is Good,’ he rallies them to support his political campaign to run for City Supervisor.


Joe Castel

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Joseph R. Castel is a producer, screenwriter and playwright whose work has explored Latino and LGBTQ history and identity for over 20 years. His documentary, Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Sarria (2020) opened up the Long Beach’s Q Film Festival in 2019 and won Audience Award for Best Feature Film. Since then, it has streamed at Los Angeles Outfest, Fresno’s Reel Pride, and Winnipeg Film Festivals.

Castel’s other producing and directing credits include RECORDAR, a documentary about his family’s immigration from Mexico to Illinois, currently in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection. He also co-wrote and produced the play THE BLVD, which received critical recognition in its six week run in West Hollywood.

Castel, along with his co-writer, was awarded a Corporation for Public Broadcasting development grant for HERO STREET, a feature-length screenplay that relates the true story of eight Mexican American war heroes. As a writer, Castel, has worked as a public relations consultant and reporter for numerous PR Firms and entertainment magazines, including Adelante Magazine. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa.