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Do Something Reel: LGBT Film Fest Preview

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 20, 2011 4:00PM

Reeling 30 kitten poster.jpg Wise kids, ball scene queens, horned-up gay guys, and country music superstar Chely Wright—all appear on the silver screen for Reeling 2011: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival. Reeling—the second oldest LGBT film festival in the world—celebrates it milestone 30th anniversary by showcasing new and exciting work that continues to push boundaries and expand LGBT representation on film.

Even though we’re a little stymied by Reeling’s poster image this year (a kitten in the sky with clouds and rainbows?), we’re more than a little awed by the line-up which features 65 different programs—including 53 features and featurettes, and 78 short films from 21 countries.

The 10-day festival unspools with a first for Reeling—the opening night’s entry, The Wise Kids, is the first time the festival will open with a film directed by a Chicago-based filmmaker. The coming-of-age film was written and directed by Stephen Cone, who received accolades for his performance in Philip Dawkin’s play The Homosexuals this summer, prompting Chicago Tribune's theater critic Chris Jones to dub Cone one of the “hot new faces of Chicago theater.”

Herewith, our preview of some of the highlights from this year’s Reeling.

The Wise Kids

Tim, Brea, and Laura are three high school friends who live in a tight-knit South Carolina town where everyone knows each other and church on Sunday is a given. As the friends near high school graduation, Tim, who is gay, decides to move to New York and attend film school. He loves the Lord and has little problem reconciling his beliefs with his sexuality, unlike his two best friends who wrestle with how to love Tim despite the fact that he, according to the Bible, won’t make it into heaven.

Featuring a "brilliant cast of young actors" (Variety), the film won Outfest's Grand Jury Awards for Best U.S. Dramatic Feature and Outstanding Screenwriting; Newfest's Audience Award for Best Narrative Film; and Sidewalk/Shout Birmingham's Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.

The Wise Kids (Opening Night film)
USA, 2011, 95 Min.
Chicago Premiere
Location: Music Box Theatre
7:30 PM

eatingout51.jpg Eating Out: The Open Weekend

The popular Eating Out films (Eating Out, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds, Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat, and Eating Out 4: Drama Camp) are frothy, sexy, soft-core porn adjacent fun. The fifth installment in the series features Zack and Benji trying to amp up their relationship by having an “open” weekend at a gay resort in Palm Springs. At the resort, Zack runs into his ex-boyfriend Casey, who, still heartbroken, pretends he met someone new in order to save face. Luckily, Casey quickly reacquaints with an old high school friend, Peter, whom he manages to convince to act as his boyfriend despite Peter’s concern that it will interfere with his promiscuous weekend opportunities. As sexual tension starts to mount between Peter and Benji, Zack becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his relationship, while Casey longs for a stable relationship of his own.

Did you follow any of that? Neither did we, and who cares—the guys are hot enough to make your underwear howl.

Eating Out: The Open Weekend
USA, 2011, 82 Min.
Location: Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
7:00 PM

Judas Kiss

A quirk in time and space gives a failed filmmaker the chance to reshape his destiny when he visits his peculiar alma mater to judge an annual student film festival. Judas Kiss is described as a “science fiction drama” steeped in magical realism that answers the question: What if you could go back and fix the mistakes of your past?

And yes, the drama begins with an anonymous one-night stand with a humpy freshman (doesn’t it always?)

Judas Kiss
USA, 2011, 94 min.
Location: Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
9:15 PM

LEAVE_IT_ON_THE_FLOORresize_jpg.jpg Leave It On The Floor

Many people are familiar with the Jennie Livingston documentary, “;Paris Is Burning” a film that turned the spotlight onto the underground ball culture in New York City, a scene that also inspired Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue,” and of course, Madonna’s pop confection “Vogue.”

Leave It On The Floor tells the story of an outsider, Brad, a black gay youth who’s been shunned by his dysfunctional family and turned out onto the mean streets of Los Angeles. By chance, like Alice down the rabbit hole, he stumbles into a ball—a startling underground scene populated by a ragtag assortment of strays led by Queen Latina (played by Miss Barbie-Q). Brad finds that he’s got a lot to learn about what it takes to walk the walk and talk the talk in this underground community. Through all the laughter, tears, and queens in 5-inch stilettos, Brad overcomes obstacles and heart aches in order to make a home with his loving, caring drag family.

Featuring music by Kim Burse (Beyonce's music director) and choreography by Frank Gastson, Jr. (Beyonce's dance master), Leave It On The Floor is described by Reeling organizers as Paris is Burning meets Glee.

Incidentally, the ball scene is thriving in Chicago, in case you were unaware. Divas-to-the-dance floor-please!

Leave It On The Floor
USA, 2011, 109 Min.
Location: The Portage Theater
9:30 PM

Reeling is also presenting three documentary “centerpiece” films:

We Were Here

This year marks 30 years since AIDS was first reported. In the documentary We Were Here, filmmaker David Weissman revisits the generation whose lives were affected in unimaginable ways when their beloved city of San Francisco changed from a hotbed of sexual freedom to the epicenter of the "gay plague."
We Were Here
USA, 2011, 90 Min.
Location: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
3:00 PM

Wish Me Away

In the intimate and moving Wish Me Away, filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf follow country music superstar Chely Wright's journey as she finds the strength to reveal she is gay to friends, family, and eventually, the public. The film won the Los Angeles Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature and Frameline's Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary.

Wish Me Away
USA, 2011, 96 min.
Location: Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
7:00 PM


Vito is Jeffrey Schwarz's heartfelt portrait of Vito Russo, well-known cinephile and author of The Celluloid Closet, and one of the earliest and important voices in the struggle for gay rights.

USA, 2011, 93 Min.
Location: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
7:00 PM

Reeling 2011, November 3-12

Screenings for the festival take place at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.), Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.), Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.), Instituto Cervantes (31 W. Ohio St.), the Block Cinema at the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art (40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston), and the Portage Theater (4050 N. Milwaukee Avenue).

Ticket purchases: Advance sales are available until the day before the show. On the day of the show, tickets are only available for purchase at the theater box office.