The Reeling Film Festival is rolling out in Chicago for its 39th annual programming. The LGBTQ+ international film festival will open on September 23rd at the Music Box Theatre and run from September 24-30 at the Landmark Century Centre Cinemas. No fret for those who can’t make it to the city: it’ll run virtually from September 27th to 0ctober 7th. They recently released the entire program for the event, which includes 33 feature films and 9 short films from over 15 countries. With so much to see, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. Here is what you need to know about the event, including COVID-19-related safety measures, highlighted films, and the history of the second-oldest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world.
For its 38th annual edition last year, Reeling had to adapt to going into a completely virtual format. Luckily, this year, organizers think it will be safe to run in-person from September 24th-30th at Landmark Century Centre Cinemas, one of Chicago’s rich cultural institutes. All festivalgoers will be required to wear a mask and show proof of vaccination status or negative COVID test for 72 hours or less.
The Reeling Film Festival is also offering online screening from September 27th to October 7th. Online goers will have to be located either inside Illinois or the United States, depending on the specific film they are screening.
The Sixth Reel
Firebird will headline the festival’s opening night, UK director Peeter Rebane’s thriller-romance during the Cold War at a military base. Things get complicated for the two main star-crossed lovers, portrayed by Oleg Zagorodnii and Tom Prior, as they are faced with the Soviet’s criminalization of homosexuality.
Jump, Darling, does us the honor of seeing Cloris Leachman in one of her last ever roles, playing the grandmother of a drag queen. The American actress and winner of eight Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe Award passed away earlier this year. With an acting career that spanned over seven decades, she will be remembered for a wide variety of roles, including Phyllis Lindstrom on the TV show The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Frau Blücher, the housekeeper in Young Frankenstein.
Where the sun sets on one acting career, it rises in another: Nell Barlow, a newcomer to the film scene, plays a leading role in Sweetheart, portraying an angsty teenager dragged along on a family vacation.
There is a diverse assortment of fictional queer romance stories to get lost in at this year’s Reeling Film Festival. Still, the program also includes many powerful and true stories in the form of documentaries. The documentary centerpiece is North by Current by transgender filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax. After the death of his young niece, the filmmaker returned to his hometown in rural Michigan. This journey resurfaces complicated emotions during his transition and in his relationship with his family.
Another documentary highlight is No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics, featuring Chicago’s own Rupert Kinnard, a cartoonist who created the first Black queer comic book character: the Brown Bomber, a teenage superhero, and Diva Touché Flambé, his lesbian partner.