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8 Films We Can't Wait To Catch At Chicago's Iconic, LGBTQ Reeling Film Fest This Year

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 7, 2017 2:01PM

Russell Tovey (Jason) and Arinze Kene (Ade) in "The Pass."

The 2017 Reeling film festival—the second oldest LGBTQ film fest in the U.S.—unspools Sept. 21 at Music Box Theatre with Hello Again, a sex-fueled all-star screen adaptation of an under-the-radar John LaChiusa musical that follows the erotic escapades of characters with names like The Whore, The College Boy, and The Young Thing. Clearly, Reeling 35 starts off with a satisfying bang—ten actually, since the sensual musical tells the tales of as many love affairs, each set in a different decade.

The remainder of the eight-day film festival will screen at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, and includes 30 feature films and 10 shorts programs with titles from 22 countries, including the premiere of two locally made features.

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ + International Film Festival—celebrating its 35th anniversary—will showcase some of the best queer cinema projected onto Chicago silver screens in years, and here’s 8 reasons why:

An insightful drama about closeted soccer players

Russell Tovey (Looking) gives a stunning performance in The Pass, a film about two closeted soccer players sharing a hotel room the night before a big game. The usual homoerotic tensions come to a boil with results that reverberate throughout the next ten years of both men’s lives—until they meet again. (Added bonus: Tovey in his tighty whites).

Trudie Styler’s directorial debut (with a Bette Midler cameo)

Freak Show, adapted from James St. James’ 2007 young adult novel, tells the story of “Billy Bloom,” a self-professed “trans-visionary gender obliviator” who transfers to a conservative high school while his beloved mother (Bette Midler) is in rehab. Having grown up in his mother’s world of “grace, glamour, and Gucci,” Billy dresses like Boy George on the first day of school and appears in a stunning array of sartorial costumes throughout the film, much to his bigoted father’s chagrin. Look for Laverne Cox’s feel-good turn as a supportive TV reporter.

An inside look at Todrick Hall’s creative process

Behind the Curtain:Todrick Hall features an intimate look at the multi-hyphenate (dancer, singer, YouTube sensation, RuPaul’s Drag Race judge) and the making of his most ambitious project yet, Straight Outta Oz, which combines elements of The Wizard of Oz and Hall’s personal story. Directed by Katherine Wright, the film explores Hall’s roots growing up black and gay in a religious family in Texas and how he overcame those struggles to eventually perform on Broadway.

Alan Cumming unpacks the survivor’s guilt of an AIDS activist

After Louie—based on the life of writer /director Vincent Gagliostro—features Cumming as “Sam,” a moody visual artist who pays for sex with young men when he isn’t brooding over archival footage of his friend, William, who died of AIDS. Sam’s survivor’s guilt impedes his ability to truly connect with the new generation of gay men until a night with “Braeden” hints at the possibility of a tentative relationship.

En Algun Lugar

Films with strong Chicago ties

Chicago-based writer/director Wendell Etherly’s Market Value tells the compelling story of a lesbian couple’s fight to keep their adopted son. The courtroom drama addresses complex issues related to LGBT adoption, same-sex marriage, and human trafficking.

En Algun Lugar (A Place to Be) was filmed in Chicago and features notable performances by two Chicago- based actors (Nelson Rodriguez and Andrew Saenz)— is a moving love story between a young, gay Latino couple challenged by the undocumented status of one of the young men.

Select episodes of Brown Girls—a web series produced in Chicago that follows the lives of two young women of color living in the Pilsen neighborhood—will also be screened, specifically the story lines that focus on queer writer, Leila. Creators Samantha Bailey and Fatimah Asghar were recently signed to a development deal to adapt the series for HBO.

Closing out Reeling 35 is Saturday Church featuring Chicago resident Regina Taylor in a supporting role in this coming-of-age-film about a young boy growing up in the Bronx who uses musical fantasies to come to terms with his burgeoning gender identity. Saturday Church was inspired by a program at a New York City church that supports LGBTQ youth, including homeless youth, around the city. The 7:00 p.m. screening on Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Landmark Century will be followed by a closing night party at Progress Bar.

Reeling 35 runs Sept. 21 through Sept. 28. A complete listing of this year’s films is available online. Tickets are $12 for regular screenings and $10 for matinees.