The “second longest–running film festival of its kind,” Reeling International Film Festival is back to showcase a dizzying array of LGBTQ+ content, from campy horror to historical documentaries. Continue reading, and you’re sure to find something which appeals.
Reeling: The 41st Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival
Thu 9/21–Sun 10/8, locations vary
Festival passes $50–$180 for members, $55–$200 for nonmembers
Single streaming tickets $10; single in-person tickets $10 for members, $12 for nonmembers (excludes special admissions)
The Mattachine Family
Bring tissues, because Andy Vallentine’s The Mattachine Family packs plenty of feels, showing how longtime Los Angeles couple Thomas (Nico Tortorella) and Oscar (Juan Pablo Di Pace) react to their foster child being reunited with his birth mother. As Oscar’s acting career kicks off and he departs for long periods for filming, Thomas is left floundering and seeking comfort from his close-knit group of friends, all of whom are also contemplating what it means to find and create a family.
All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White
The winner of the Teddy Award at Berlinale, Colours (dir. Babatunde Apalowo) is a tenderly brimming love story between delivery driver Bambino (Tope Tedela) and photographer Bawa (Riyo David). After the two meet and tour Lagos together, their affection blooms beyond the photographs that are a chronicle of their time spent. But in Nigeria, where homosexuality is illegal and every move is closely monitored, the potentially deadly consequences are always just out of frame. And Bawa must overcome far more than his self-doubt if he wishes to keep the man he loves in his life.
The city shines bright in Emily Railsback’s very improvised feature about two women who may have to depart their much-loved home for a new one in order to survive. Elsie (Kristen Bush) and Bette (Rebecca Ridenour) are struggling to raise their toddler daughter in the midst of the pandemic, which has them grappling with the possible loss of their apartment. When Elsie learns she may soon receive a job offer that will solve their financial woes but will require a move to Oklahoma, the two must determine what will best serve the family they’ve fought to build.
Chasing Chasing Amy
As we continue to contend with the legacies of our cinematic heroes, writer-director Sav Rodgers takes a complex look at the film he credits with saving his life as a queer teen in Kansas: Chasing Amy (1997). Years later, Rodgers has a much different relationship with the film, and a friendship with director Kevin Smith, who is among many he interviews about what Chasing Amy means to them now. As the documentary also contemplates the 90s indie film scene, which often rewarded men like Smith at the expense of queer filmmakers, Rodgers likewise takes a personal journey onscreen as he realizes he’s a trans man.
Egghead & Twinkie
Gen Z needn’t feel left out of the road trip genre thanks to the TikTok-funded Egghead & Twinkie (dir. Sarah Kambe Holland), which follows the titular BFFs—the straight, nerdy Egghead (Louis Tomeo) and Twinkie (Sabrina Jieafa), a recently out lesbian—as they hit the road after Twinkie’s online crush invites her to a lesbian dance party in Texas. True to the spirit of its intended audience, there’s hilarity, shattering realizations, and plenty of manga- and anime-inspired visuals.
Need more Lily Gladstone in your life for your pre-Killers of the Flower Moon fix? The Sundance feature Fancy Dance, directed by Erica Tremblay, has you covered; the film sees Gladstone’s Jax struggling to regain custody of her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) after the disappearance of Roki’s mother. Jax is aware of the odds against her sister’s return, especially with local authorities unwilling or unable to investigate missing Indigenous women. After Jax kidnaps Roki from her white grandparents, the duo dodge the authorities while pinning their hopes on the upcoming powwow to keep their family together.
Chicago-based filmmakers Colby Holt and Sam Probst aim to get under your skin with this southern gothic coming-of-age tale. Lee (Jordan Doww) is the repressed son of a local and very homophobic small-town politician who finds himself haunted (or perhaps awakened?) by a dark spirit after he develops feelings for his classmate Kyle (Pablo Castelblanco). As the weight of his father’s name and expectations begin to drag Lee under, the biggest question may be which version of the south will win in the end.
Glitter & Doom
If Baz Luhrmann orchestrated a TikTok-inspired extravaganza overseen by Charli XCX, chances are it would look quite a bit like Tom Gustafson’s musical Glitter & Doom. When angsty aspiring musician Doom (Alan Cammish) and free-spirited circus performer Glitter (Alex Diaz) meet, this grumpy sunshine pairing is sparkling perfection, thanks in no small part to its fuel of choice, the music of the Indigo Girls. Filmed in Mexico City, the lush visuals include plenty of shout-outs to the movie’s many inspirations, but it’s the irresistible love story that ultimately propels it.
Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves an underdog. And in Timothy Harris’s documentary, Malcolm Kenyatta, a “poor, gay, Black man from North Philly,” certainly fits any description of one as the Democratic state senator turns his ambitions to the U.S. Senate in 2022. As fierce an advocate for the marginalized as he’s a formidable opponent to Republican cruelties, Kenyatta’s determination as he navigates various political obstacles—sans the funds the system demands from its candidates—is inspiring in itself. But stay for the complex questions people of color face in such a reality, especially as they contend with that oft dreaded word: electability.
Sometimes what an artist must fight for most is their due, and this documentary makes it clear how much (and how long) Ayo Leilani, aka Witch Prophet, a queer, immigrant Ethiopian Eritrean musician, has been putting in the work. Yet even momentum can have its problems, and Leilani’s struggle to remain in music goes hand-in-hand with her fight to remain proudly herself as she creates her latest album. Director Loveleen Kaur utilizes performances and deeply personal footage as she depicts the internal and professional life of an artist and her community.
Studio One Forever
West Hollywood’s Studio One would’ve made history for being the first gay disco, but it also saw a dizzying array of stars, from Liza Minnelli to Cary Grant, as patrons. Its rich history is far beyond celebrity name-dropping, with Marc Saltarelli’s documentary including footage from the decades its doors stayed open, and its darker, racist moments. It’s the third act that’s the most devastating, as various talking heads, both celebrity and civilian, recount still-lingering trauma and survivor’s guilt from the horrific ravages of AIDS.
Prolific trans teen filmmaker Alice Maio Mackay’s T Blockers is absolutely boiling with rebellion and middle fingers at the ready, unapologetically embracing camp and meta sensibilities. The movie follows Sophie (Lauren Last) and her group of queer friends, who are tight-knit in the way people under siege tend to be. As they cope with viciously anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, and friends begin disappearing, Sophie senses an evil that is eerily reminiscent of a rediscovered 90s horror film from a trans filmmaker about parasitic worms that spread bigotry. When the terror proves to be all too real, Sophie and her crew fight back in the face of alt-right rallies and despair, and T Blockers forces us to question our ability to recognize monsters and oppressive regimes alike.