Today, the twenty-ninth annual Reeling Film Festival opens here in Chicago with a lineup of extraordinary queer-centric features, documentaries and shorts. As the second longest-running LGBT film festival in the nation, Reeling has earned a unique status not only as a cultural institution among Chicago’s queer communities, but also among LGBT film festivals worldwide.
I wrote a feature for EDGE last week profiling Andy Blubaugh, the director of just one of the films playing the festival this year, The Adults in the Room. Blubaugh, who lives in Portland, Ore., takes a somewhat unusual approach to his filmmaking, using his own life experiences as a lens through which to view various social phenomena. In this, his first feature, Blubaugh references his experience as a 15-year-old engaging in a romantic relationship which a closeted man nearly twice his age, juxtaposing this narrative both with his own filmmaking process and the controversy surrounding Portland mayor Sam Adams’ relationship with a 17-year-old Beau Breedlove. The film deals with a potentially squeamish subject with a fresh perspective — one that makes it stand out from a lot of other queer cinema.
“It was never my intent to be a ‘gay filmmaker,’ which is not to say that I don’t appreciate the support I’ve gotten from the queer filmmaking community and festivals I’ve been lucky enough to screen at, but I never considered that to be my home. I just make personal films and happen to be gay,” Blubaugh said.
This film, playing the festival Monday, November 8, at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema at 7:30 p.m., is just one of many gems playing the festival. Given the phenomenal contribution Reeling makes to this city’s dialogue on LGBT issues, I wanted to take a moment to spotlight five of its other offerings that would probably be worth your time to check out:
Gen Silent (Saturday, 11/6, 12 p.m.) – A Stu Maddux-directed documentary on the difficulties facing the aging LGBT population, a group that fought so hard to climb out of the closet only to be forced back in the winter of their lives.
JoJo Baby (Saturday, 11/6, 5 p.m.) – A hometown film depicting the man (and the dolls) that lives behind the wild makeup of JoJo Baby, a portrait of a truly inspired and bizarre queer artist. The documentary is produced by horror extraordinaire Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Candyman).
I Killed My Mother (J’ai Tue Ma Mere) (Saturday, 11/6, 7:15 p.m.) – A French coming-of-age feature from writer-director-actor Xavier Dolan telling the story of an angsty gay teen deeply at odds with his family. Bonus: Major hottie factor.
Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger (Tuesday, 11/9, 7:15 p.m.) – We like to throw around Hudson’s name knowingly when discussing the legacy of gay actors in Hollywood, but how much do we really know about the former A-Lister, who was outed when he succumbed to AIDS in 1985? This documentary digs deeper.
Undertow (Contracorriente) (Saturday, 11/13, 7 p.m.) – Peru’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards is closing out this year’s Reeling. The feature tells the story of a sexy married fisherman’s complicated gay affair.
So… maybe I am a tad biased toward documentaries and foreign films? In addition to these, the Ewan McGregor-Jim Carrey gay film that’s finally seeing its limited American release after innumerable delays, I Love You Phillip Morris, plays Wednesday, 11/10, 9 p.m. And the shorts program titled Love is a Battlefield (Sunday, 11/7, 1:15 p.m.) includes two of James Franco’s shorts — including that naked basketball one.
Support queer film and check out Reeling ’10!