From left: Broken Sky, Dangerous Dykes, Eating Out 2, The Gymnast.
Jonathan Bray and Wilson Cruz in Coffee Date. Broken Sky. Female to Femme. Red Doors. The Blossoming of Maximo. The Gymnast ( two shots ) . Crazy.
The second-oldest gay and lesbian film festival in the country, Chicago's Reeling ( only San Francisco's is older ) marks 25 years this year. The fest will celebrate with a 10-day gala ( Nov. 2-12 ) involving more than 175 films and videos from 22 countries. Reeling will again present a first for the genre on its opening night: a sequel. Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds is a raunchy queer comedy of the American Pie variety that again stars former American Idol contestant Jim Verraros, an openly gay actor/singer who hails from Crystal Lake, Ill.
The film is directed by another former Illinoisan, Phillip J. Bartell. Both Verraros and Bartell will attend the film's screening Nov. 2 at 7:15 p.m. at the Music Box as well as an after-party at Architectural Artifacts. 'I know it's weird to open with a gay sequel,' festival director Brenda Webb said, 'but it's fluffy and fun and we really want to support homegrown talent. [ Also, ] audiences loved it when we showed Eating Out a couple of years ago.'
Included in the first week line-up are two gay-themed films that are their country's respective entries for this year's Academy Awards: The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros from the Philippines and C.R.A.Z.Y. from Canada. Many of Reeling's offerings this year feature well-known actors in their casts: Ricki Lake, Cheri Oteri and William Baldwin are in the wacky comedy Park; Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, Stockard Channing and Olympia Dukakis are in the AIDS drama 3 Needles; and Darryl Stephens, star of Logo's Noah's Arc, in the drama Boy Culture. ( Stephens will also attend the screening. )
Webb is also putting a focus on Reeling's original intentions of highlighting avant-garde films, many of them made by queer filmmakers. A host of experimental films, new and old, are on the schedule as a nod to the fest's origins. 'A lot of the important American avant garde filmmakers were gay and lesbian,' Webb said. 'In fact, that's how the festival started—I was trying to find an audience for these queer experimental films and connect them to the community.'
Just a few highlights screened from the opening week schedule:
Thursday, Nov. 2:
Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds
Horny twentysomethings Kyle, Tiffany and Gwen are back, this time vying for the sexual attention of Troy ( as in Troy from Illinois ) , a superb example of a Midwestern corn-fed hunk. Troy's not sure if he's gay, straight or bi-curious, but one thing's for sure: He's not shy about dropping his drawers at a moment's notice. Like its predecessor, Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds is silly and sexy and has enough of both those items and the requisite bitchy one-liners to hold one's attention for the duration. Mink Stole as Kyle's mother is a bonus.
Friday, Nov. 3:
This Canadian film follows 30 years in the life of a large Catholic family living in suburban Montreal. The film is seen through the eyes of one of the sons, Zac, and his burgeoning gay sexuality. The film captures the look of three distinctive decades, features amazing performances and has a wonderful soundtrack to boot. In French.
Colma: The Musical
Billy, Rodel and their saucy friend Mirabel, just out of high school, sing a lot of original Billy Idol-type rock-New Wave-sounding songs ( and a couple of power ballads ) as they strive to make their way in the world. Before the summer ends and the three head off to college or in other directions, secrets will be revealed ( including the gay sexuality of one of the friends ) . The film tackles social issues in a sort of West Coast, Hispanic updating of Rent. An appealing but not particularly memorable cast belts out the myriad of musical numbers ( 13 in all ) .
Filthy Gorgeous: The Trannyshack Story
Sean Mullins' gritty documentary captures the story of the long-running Tuesday night institution known as Trannyshack, which takes place at San Francisco's Stud bar. The line-up of drag queens and kings are shown in performance, in rehearsal, making up and taking credit for as much as possible, in true drag queen fashion. Fans of Wigstock the Movie and Leigh Bowery will have a field day. Fun and fabu-lush.
Saturday, Nov. 4:
Inspired by the classic '30s lesbian drama Maedchen in Uniform, this is a modern retelling of the 'love that dares not speak its name' between a teacher and her comely student. This is a beautifully acted and photographed drama that's sensual and romantic.
Eating Out writer-director Q. Allan Brocka returns with this dramedy about X, a high-class hustler who must choose between his two sexy roommates, the just-out African-American twink ( played by Noah's Arc's Darryl Stephens ) or the wealthy French patron who just wants to talk until X truly feels desire for him. The sexy X narrates the film and his musings about sex and love have some of the same insight as those offered by Jane Fonda's call girl in Klute.
Bob and Jack's 52 Year Adventure
This movie is an enormously charming portrait of a couple who originally met when both were in the Army in Germany in 1952. At various points, Bob and Jack are alternately filmed in front of one another instead of side by side by filmmaker Stu Maddux ,which adds a subtle charm and humor to their endearing and inspirational story ( shown through vintage photographs and stock footage ) .
Two documentaries originally shown at last summer's mini Reeling fest during the Gay Games return for repeat screenings on Nov. 4. Both Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema and Be Real: Stories from Queer America are highly recommended.
Sunday, Nov. 5:
A name-brand cast ( Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, Stockard Channing, X-Men's Shawn Ashmore, et al. ) enact writer-director Thom Fitzgerald's fascinating triptych of stories in this sprawling look at the far-reaching consequences AIDS continues to have around the world. Narrated by Olympia Dukakis. Compelling and unusual.
Rock Bottom: Gay Men and Meth
This movie takes a hard-hitting, gritty and graphic look at the dreadful effects of the crystal meth epidemic on the lives of several gay men in New York.
Cruel and Unusual, a documentary screening on Nov. 5 that focuses on transgendered persons, is also highly recommended.
Screenings for the festival will be held primarily at three locations: Landmark's Century Centre Cinema ( 2828 N. Clark ) , Columbia College's Film Row Cinema ( 1104 S. Wabash, Third Floor ) , and at Chicago Filmmakers ( 5243 N. Clark ) .
Complete festival information, tickets, theatres and locations by calling 773-293-1447 or at www.reelingfilmfestival.org . Highlights of Reeling's second-week schedule will run in next week's Windy City Times.