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Bianca Del Rio, James Franco, Anthony Rapp Headline Reeling Fest Schedule

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 21, 2016 3:40PM

Christian Slater, Garrett Clayton, Keegan Allen and James Franco in promotional art for "King Cobra." (Courtesy Reeling and Allied Integrated Marketing.)

Opening with a starring vehicle for drag icon Bianca Del Rio and closing with a gay porn-themed crime saga produced by and co-starring James Franco, this year's schedule for Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival is not short on star power.

The festival's 34th edition runs Sept. 22 to 29, with opening night at the Music Box Theatre and subsequent films at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema and Chicago Filmmakers, which originated and continues to oversee the event.

Del Rio (a.k.a. Roy Haylock), who gained national popularity after winning the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, will attend the opening night gala and showing of Hurricane Bianca, a comedy written and directed by Columbia College grad Matt Kugelman. The supporting cast features Alan Cumming, SNL veteran Rachel Dratch, Margaret Cho and RuPaul.

Inspired by a true murder case tailor-made for tabloid headlines, closing night draw King Cobra stars Franco as a gay porn producer who plots to kill a rival (Christian Slater) in order to obtain the rights to work with a rising star in the skin flick biz. Eighties and '90s teen film icons Molly Ringwald and Alicia Silverstone also star in this movie generating a lot of advance buzz.

Also getting much attention is Closet Monster, which was named Best Canadian Feature Film at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. The dark coming-out and coming-of-age drama is reportedly quite audacious in story and style. One character certainly stands out in the festival program's synopsis: a talking hamster voiced by Isabella Rossellini.

Another high-profile guest appearing is Joliet native Anthony Rapp, who has a devoted fan base stemming from his role in the original Broadway production of Rent (as well as subsequent revivals and the movie adaptation). Rapp will attend to help promote two films he stars in: bwoy, in which he plays a bereaved father drawn to a young Jamaican man; and Do You Take This Man?, a romantic drama about a gay couple navigating various hurdles on the eve of their wedding.

Other potential highlights on the schedule include Sundance Audience Award winner First Girl I Loved and the documentary centerpiece, Upstairs Inferno, which details the 1973 burning of a gay bar in New Orleans that took 32 lives. (It stood as the largest targeted mass murder of homosexual people in U.S. history until this year's tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.)

Reeling also offers multiple short film programs to go along with over 30 features. Filmmaker Q&As, pre- and post-screening parties and other special events are also on the calendar. Pricing varies for individual tickets and festival passes, with discounted admission if you sign up for a membership. For the complete Reeling schedule and details on all the films, click here.