Reeling 2011: The 30th Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, running November 3-12, kicks off its 10-day festival with the Opening Night Gala presentation of The Wise Kids by Chicago-based filmmaker Stephen Cone, to be held at the Music Box Theatre on Thursday, November 3. The Wise Kids is a coming-of-age drama set in the South, featuring a “brilliant cast of young actors” (Variety). The film has garnered Best Feature awards at Outfest and Newfest (the Los Angeles and New York gay film festivals).
Reeling closes on Saturday, November 12, at the Portage Theater with dual closing night selections: Lorene Machado’s Margaret Cho performance film, Cho Dependent(6:00 pm) and Casper Andreas’ satire on “making it” in Hollywood, Going Down in La-La Land (9:30 pm).
Documentaries take center stage this year with three centerpiece films. On Saturday, November 5, Reeling presents Wish Me Away, about country music sensation Chely Wright’s struggle and fears around publicly coming out. The film has already won best documentary awards at the Los Angeles Film Festival and Frameline (San Francisco’s gay film festival). Fresh from its New York Film Festival world premiere, Vito is about activist and author of The Celluloid Closet, Vito Russo. The film screens on Monday, November 7 (on the anniversary of Russo’s death from AIDS). Sundance documentary We Were Here is a moving look back at the onset of the HIV epidemic 30 years ago at its epicenter, San Francisco, screening on Sunday, November 6.
The full festival line-up
FEATURE FILMS IN REELING30:
Angela Tucker (USA)
Never in the mood? This groundbreaking documentary explores the topic of “asexuality.”
Eldar Rapaport (USA)
After a painful break-up and many years of estrangement, former lovers re-unite over a cup of coffee and find themselves swept away, once again.
Rikki Beadle-Blair (UK)
When a gay white boy from the English countryside tries to break into London’s underground hip-hop scene, he is met by homophobia so brutal it nearly destroys his life.
Mark Bessenger (USA)
After a redneck truck-driver picks up a hitchhiking gay couple, the journey turns into a night of terror when they discover the shipment of coffins they’re hauling are far from empty.
Bernard & Richard Shumanski (USA)
What begins as a sweet and sexually explicit love story set in Chicago becomes a tale of extortion and moral hypocrisy when lovers Aaron and Sam hatch a scheme to blackmail a prominent religious figure and anti-gay activist (played by local “Mumblecore” director Joe Swanberg).
Break My Fall
Kanchi Wichmann (UK)
In East London’s gay community, friends, lovers, and bandmates are plunged into an emotional meltdown at an illegal rave.
Christian Martin (UK)
Credit cards maxed out, mortgage unpaid, and on the verge of financial ruin, Aaron secretly films his erotic encounters with lover Seb and peddles the videos online.
Aaron Douglas Johnston (USA/Netherlands)
After the suicide of her gay friend, Alexa travels to his small Iowa hometown to make a documentary about what it must have been like to grow up gay in “Bumblefuck, USA.” When she meets an out lesbian artist to whom she is attracted, her preconceptions about the town and about herself are both changed.
Lorene Machado (USA)
Margaret Cho performs her brash and uncensored new comedy act, with her barbed commentary targeted at topics like Lady Gaga, her stint on Dancing with the Stars, and her culture shock at moving to the South for her Lifetime TV series, Drop Dead Diva.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
Madeleine Olnek (USA)
Olnek’s hilarious take on low budget sci-fi 1950’s B-movie kitsch (think tin foil hats and cardboard spaceships) follows three shiny-headed space aliens who descend on New York City to discover whether love can survive the trials and tribulations of intergalactic travel.
Community Action Center
A.L. Steiner & A.K. Burns (USA)
This experimental video combines provocative performance pieces – both “real” and fantastical – that explore the aesthetics of eroticism and illuminate how sexuality and the complexities of gendered bodies are inherently political.
Dirty Drawings…With Happy Endings
Bruno Irizarry (USA)
This documentary tracks the journey of a group of gay male artists in NYC who are blurring the line between art and pornography as they struggle to create a commercial market for their sexually-explicit artwork.
Eating Out: The Open Weekend?
Q. Allan Brocka (USA)
The “Eating Out” franchise returns with this Palm Springs resort romp, where boyfriends Zack and Benji decide to have an open relationship for a weekend of fun. Of course, once the relationship is declared open, complications rush in.
A Few Days of Respite
Amor Hakkar (France)
Facing imprisonment or death because of their homosexuality, Iranian lovers Mohsen and Hassan flee their home country bound for Paris, traveling separately to avoid suspicion. Passing through a small town in France, Mohsen is befriended by an older French woman who tries to help him, but unintentionally drives a wedge between the two lovers.
Laure Charpentier (France)
Set in 1960’s Paris, Gigola is a sought-after female gigolo whose debonair butch style and cool attitude cause the femmes to swoon and wealthy cougars to shower her with gifts. Based on director Charpentier’s previously censored 1972 novel Gigola.
Going Down in La-La Land
Casper Andreas (USA)
Prolific director Casper Andreas has given us plenty of gay romantic comedies and even a gay musical. Here, he shows us his dark side with a satire on “making it” in Hollywood, shining a harsh light on washed-up starlets, closeted celebrities, down-and-out directors, and the seamy underworld of gay porn. With surprising appearances by comics Judy Tenuta and Bruce Vilanch – neither playing their roles for laughs.
Steven Williford (USA)
Michael and his partner Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson, 30 Rock) leave New York City with hopes of leading a simple harmonious life on the Connecticut shoreline. When a male student accuses Michael of “inappropriate behavior,” his job, relationship, and freedom are all in jeopardy.
Hannah and the Hasbian
Gordon Napier (Australia)
Hannah gives up her former hetero life for a blissful union with charismatic lesbian Breigh, only to have Breigh wake up one day and decide that she’s no longer a lesbian. Hilarity ensues as Hannah plots to win back her woman.
Heart Breaks Open
Billie Rain (USA)
A queer activist and poet in Seattle, Jesus’ world implodes when he discovers that he is HIV positive after having unprotected sex when cheating on his long-time partner.
Hit So Hard
P. David Ebersole (USA)
A raw, pull-no-punches documentary of the hell-and-back life of Patty Schemel, the hard-hitting drummer of Courtney Love’s seminal rock band “Hole” during its peak years.
Hollywood to Dollywood
John Lavin (USA)
On the fumes of a dream, twin brothers write a screenplay with a role for Dolly Parton, and set out in an RV from Hollywood, CA to Dollywood, TN to deliver the script personally to their idol.
Sonali Gulati (USA/India)
In a country where, until recently, being gay was a criminal offense, a young Indian filmmaker travels across India to meet the parents of other gay and lesbian South Asians, wishing she had been able to come out to her own mother before her death.
Into the Lion’s Den
Dan Lantz (USA)
Three best friends on a cross-country road trip celebrate their last night on the road at a secluded backwoods bar. As closing time draws near, a night of unspeakable horror is about to begin.
Baldwin Zophoníasson (Iceland)
Nominated for an EDDA Award (Iceland’s Oscars), Jitters has been compared favorably to the popular British teen drama Skins as it tells the story of a sixteen year-old whose life takes a surprising turn when he’s kissed by another boy.
J.T. Tepnapa (USA)
In this science fiction drama, a phantasmal blip in time gives failed filmmaker Zach Wells (Charlie David, Mulligans) a chance to change his destiny.
Michael Skiff (USA)
This sexy, smart, and surprisingly upbeat doc traces the history of the world’s oldest fetish/kink competition – the International Mr. Leather contest, held in Chicago each year.
Leave it on The Floor
Sheldon Larry (USA)
A gay youth thrown out of his home rediscovers the meaning of family after stumbling upon the LA ball scene in this “stand up and shout” musical drama, featuring music by Kim Burse (Beyonce’s music director) and choreography by Frank Gastson, Jr. (Beyonce’s dance master).
David Lewis (USA)
The 1980s come roaring back in this risqué and sexy comedy involving a group of Texas frat-boys, a remote cabin in the Hill Country, and lots of beers, that will give “ride ’em cowboy” a whole new meaning!
Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti)
Ferzan Ozpetek (Italy)
In order to escape an unwanted future in the family pasta factory, Tommaso plans to come out to his conservative Italian family, but his brother comes out first, beating him to the punch, in this endearing ensemble drama with an eccentric cast of characters.
The Night Watch
Richard Laxton (UK)
Following up the acclaimed BBC productions of two other Sarah Waters’ novels, Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, comes her World War II drama about four interconnected Londoners trying to rebuild their shattered lives after the war.
The Love Patient
Michael Simon (USA)
When brash ad exec Paul realizes he has lost his ex-boyfriend for good, he concocts an outrageous scheme to win him back: he stages his own cancer diagnosis.
The LuLu Sessions
S. Casper Wong (USA)
The LuLu Sessions is a cinematic love letter by filmmaker S. Casper Wong to her lifelong best friend and love LuLu Nutter, a celebrated cancer researcher who has been diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer.
Ash Christian (USA)
All Mangus has ever wanted was to play Jesus Christ in his high school’s production of Jesus Christ Spectacular, but just when he thinks he will step into Jesus’ sandals, a freak accident threatens to crush his dreams. This dark comedy stars Jennifer Coolidge, Heather Matarazzo, and Leslie Jordan.
Alexandra Roxo (USA)
In this otherworldly tale, two sisters return to their childhood home after their mother’s death to enjoy one last summer there together and find the boundaries of sisterly affection are becoming blurred.
Michael Akers (USA)
After a bicycling accident, Morgan has a tough time accepting life as a paraplegic, but his zest for life is reignited when he meets someone new on the basketball court.
My Last Round (Mi Último Round)
Julio Jorquera (Argentina/Chile)
In this quiet but affecting drama, Octavio, a boxer living in a small town in Chile, must give up his sport or risk death. He moves to the city to start a new life with his male lover, but when their relationship becomes rocky Octavio is driven back to the macho world he knows best and considers stepping into the ring for one last fight.
Our Lips Are Sealed
John Gallino (USA)
Two gutsy gay college students vie for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous kiss, a feat that culminates in a media sensation, and is hailed as “the kiss heard around the world.”
Dee Rees (USA)
In the Sundance hit Pariah, African-American teenager Alike revels in her identity as a butch lesbian while clubbing in Manhattan, but must return to the feminine obedient girl her family expects when she returns home to Brooklyn.
Photos of Angie
Alan Dominquez (USA)
This haunting documentary tells the story of Angie Zapata, a transgender teen from Greeley, Colorado, who was brutally killed in 2008.
Alan Brown (USA)
After eight cadets are left behind at an isolated military high school, the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps off the page and permeates their lives.
Sabine Bernardi (Germany)
Lukas is a pre-op transman who pretends a mistake has been made when he is assigned to the girl’s dormitory for his compulsory term of civil service. As if his life needed any more complications, he falls head over heels for, Fabio, the über-masculine leader of the gay pack.
Carlos Augusto de Oliveira (Denmark/Brazil)
Unable to adopt a child in his own country, a gay man from Denmark agrees to buy the unborn child of Maria, an alcoholic single mother living in the slums of Brazil.
Round Trip (Viaje Redondo)
Gerardo Tort (Mexico)
Winner of Best Mexican Film and Best Actress prizes at the Guadalajara Film Festival, Round Trip is a road movie about two women from different social classes thrown together by chance when they find themselves stranded in the desert after their car breaks down.
This Is What Love in Action Looks Like
Morgan Jon Fox (USA)
When Zach comes out to his fundamentalist parents and is sent to a Christian camp that pledges to turn gay teens straight, he has no idea that the blog entries he makes about his experience will inspire protests outside the organization’s gates. Filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox not only documents the unfolding of Zach’s situation, he also participates in the protest.
Rolla Selbak (USA)
A sensitive and powerfully told drama about three young Middle Eastern women living in
the US whose lives intertwine as they each defy tradition.
Celine Sciamma (France)
When her family moves to a new town, a ten year-old tomboy gets the chance to pass herself off as a boy to her new friends and develops a crush on a neighborhood girl. As the end of summer approaches, reality begins to set in.
Bruce McDonald (Canada)
Two ex-bandmates (and probable ex-lovers?) reunite for a tribute concert in honor of women in rock, an occasion that opens old wounds and exhumes buried emotions. Deadwood’s Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright (battling terminal cancer during the making of the film) give poignant performances that earned them both best actress nominations for the Genie Award (Canada’s Oscar equivalent).
Bruce Ornstein (USA)
A flamboyant would-be actor discovers that he is the reincarnation of a 200 year-old vampire king in this action-musical-horror-comedy.
Jeffrey Schwarz (USA)
A loving tribute to author, cinephile, and activist Vito Russo, who, in addition to his involvement with ACT UP, GAA, and GLAAD, brought attention to Hollywood’s portrayal of gays and lesbians on screen through his landmark book The Celluloid Closet.
We Have to Stop Now, 2
Robyn Dettman, Cathy DeBuono & Jill Bennett (USA)
When a quirky lesbian therapist couple writes a best-selling self-help book on marriage, despite their own troubled union, they must fake it for a documentary film crew chronicling their every move.
We Were Here
David Weissman & Bill Weber (USA)
We Were Here revisits the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, told through the reminiscences of five individuals in San Francisco whose lives were forever changed when their beloved city went from a hotbed of sexual freedom to the epicenter of the gay plague.
The Wise Kids
Stephen Cone (USA)
As they make decisions about college, three friends from a small religious town must come to terms with the prospect of separations – physical, emotional and spiritual.
Wish Me Away
Bobbie Birleffi & Beverly Kopf (USA)
An intimate and moving documentary about the difficult journey of country music star Chely Wright, as she finds the strength to come out to friends, family, and the public.
Seventy-eight short films are combined in several comedy, drama, and documentary programs, including: Funny Boner; Funny Lingus; International Men’s Shorts; International Women’s Shorts; In His Eyes; It Takes All Kinds; It’s Not Me, It’s You; Names, Planes & James…Dean; Rainbow People; Scared Stiff; T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness; and Sex, Guns, and Luche Libre. Additional shorts will be screened with the featurettes Community Action Center, Our Lips Are Sealed, Dirty Drawings…With Happy Endings, and Photos of Angie.