Fall in Chicago is full of film festivals for all audiences, from cinephiles to kids to, um, Israelis. Perhaps the most daring of them all is the annual Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, aka Reeling. Over the years (this year's event will be the 28th), the fest has run the gamut from coming-of-age tales to rockin' documentaries to explicit adult fare. The 2009 installment should be no different - here are our top 10 films (among 58 of 'em) to check out during Reeling's run (November 5-15).
"The Big Gay Musical"
Thursday, November 5, 7:30 p.m. at Music Box; $12 ($35 for film and after-party)
You might think that showing a musical at a gay film festival seems a bit, well, obvious. But Casper Andreas's latest goes beyond simple song and dance to tackle some deep issues of identity. Don't worry, he manages to include a few tap-dancing angels for good measure, too. Continue your high with a post-film gala at Architectural Artifacts, where you'll enjoy an open bar and hors' d'oeuvres.
Friday, November 6, 7 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema; $10 ($25 for film and after-party)
Who can resist a good "broads-behind-bars" flick? Director Steve Balderson's homage to the genre includes plenty of catfights, hijinks and the occasional illicit love affair. Stop by Circuit afterward for a prison-themed lesbian party with Mink Stole (John Waters's muse).
"The Baby Formula"
Friday, November 6, 9:15 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
They had us at "Canadian mockumentary." The premise of this one is predictably outlandish: Athena and Lilith are partners who decide they want to have a baby with two biological mothers. Except they both get pregnant. Then they have to tell their families. Then things get weird.
Saturday, November 7, 2 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
It's really as simple as this: "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" with drag queens in the Joan Crawford and Bette Davis roles. We're guessing you already know whether you'll like this one or not.
"And Then Came Lola"
Saturday, November 7, 9:15 p.m. at Film Row Cinema
When something is described as "the fun-filled lesbian rom-com of 2009," you have to check it out. And this take-off on fast-paced German film "Run Lola Run" seems like it will live up to the billing, with an intense pop soundtrack accompanying Lola as she sprints through the streets of San Francisco in a quest to save her relationship with her new girlfriend.
Sunday, November 8, 2:30 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
A communal house in the Castro district of San Francisco is the setting for this upbeat musical starring "fag hag" performance artist Bethesda, a recent transplant from the Philippines who's just trying to put on a one-woman show. The film has won awards at festivals in Ft. Worth and Philadelphia.
"Fish Out of Water" Sunday, November 8, 5 p.m. at Music Box
Ky Dickens's documentary about gay rights has been over two years in the making (we talked to her
about it last September), and the work that went into it should be evident. The film mixes animation with interviews and footage from Prop 8 protests and marriage ceremonies to create a powerful commentary on the intersection of sexual identity and religion.
Wednesday, November 11, 9 p.m. at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
Only at Reeling will you find a documentary that uses opera to get its point across. This film tells the story of two AIDS activists fighting to make treatment accessible for all - even at the cost of their own lives. Narrators include an albino squirrel, an amputee busker and a garlic clove.
"Rivers Wash Over Me"
Saturday, November 14, 9 p.m. at Film Row Cinema
A sensitive gay hipster from New York gets sent to a repressive Alabama town after his mother dies, and deals with rape, assault and murder. Hilarity does not ensue.
"Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!"
Sunday, November 15, 7:30 p.m. at Music Box; $12 ($35 for film and after-party at Architectural Artifacts)
Bruce Vilanch, Jai Rodriguez ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"), Carmen Electra, Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos") and Lainie Kazan (the mom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") star in this crazy family comedy. Emphasis on the crazy. If you've ever pondered the "worst-case scenario" of coming out, or you have a Jewish mother, you should see this film.