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MOVIES Reeling 2010: First-week overview
by Richard Knight, Jr.

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Reeling 2010, the second-oldest gay and lesbian film festival in the country ( after San Francisco ) is almost 30 and on Nov. 4-13, will give film enthusiasts what they've come to expect: so many LGBT-themed shorts and full length movies ( of all genres ) that one nearly overdoses on the plethora of choices. This year, festival founder/artistic director Brenda Webb and her staff have rounded up a line-up that includes some of the strongest films in years—with Children of God, JoJo Baby, I Killed My Mother, Elena Undone and Undertow as just a few stand out examples of the quality fare screening at Reeling 29.

Reeling's opening night kicks off with Children of God, writer-director-producer Kareem Mortimer's moving debut ( see mini synopsis/review below ) which is being screened at the Kerasotes ShowPlace Icon Theatre, 150 W. Roosevelt, at 7 p.m. An opening-night gala follows the screening in the ShowPlace's adjacent, nightclubish Lobby Lounge featuring one-of-a-kind cupcakes by More and Blue Moon Beer follows ( with tickets available for either film or film and after-party ) .

The festival has three movies slotted as its Centerpiece selections, with I Love You Phillip Morris, the gay romantic black comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, the most highly anticipated. That screening, a Chicago premiere, will be Wed., Nov. 10, at 9 p.m. Guests can present their ticket stub at Berlin, 954 W. Belmont, following the screening for free admission and two complimentary Blue Moon beers. A Marine Story, a lesbian romance with military themes and starring The Gymnast's Dreya Weber ( see mini synopsis/review below ) , will screen Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. Director Ned Farr and Weber will attend the screening. Writer/director Robert Gaston's Flight of the Cardinal, a thriller with gay characters ( mini synopsis/review in next week's WCT ) , is the final Centerpiece selection and will be shown Thursday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. Gaston will attend the screening. Each of the Centerpiece selections will be shown at the Landmark Century Centre Cinemas, 2828 N. Clark, the primary screening location for the festival.

The festival's closing night feature is Undertow ( Contracorriente ) , a romantic drama from Peru that was the Audience Award favorite at this year's Sundance ( mini-review and synopsis in next week's WCT ) . Undertow screens at Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio, Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m., followed by an after-party.

Access complete festival information, tickets, theatres and locations by calling 773-293-1447 or visiting . Highlights of Reeling's second-week schedule will run in next week's Windy City Times.

Here's a brief overview of other first-week Reeling fest highlights, as compiled by Richard Knight, Jr. ( RKJ ) , Andrew Davis ( AD ) and Steve Warren ( SW ) :

Thursday, Nov. 4:

—Children of God ( RKJ ) : Romantic conflicts and gay encounters on the down low flying in the face of rigid social and religious constraints abound among the splendors of the Bahamas when a gay white artist falls hard for a Black lothario who turns out to have a girlfriend. Writer-director-producer Kareem Mortimer's feature debut is profoundly moving and balanced without pushing the dramatic envelope. Highly recommended.

Friday, Nov. 5:

—The Stranger In Us ( AD ) : In this drama, Anthony ( an effective Raphael Barker ) recounts memories of two very different men in his life: manipulative, abusive ex-lover Stephen ( an even more effective Scott Cox ) and 17-year-old street hustler Gavin ( Adam Perez ) . The non-chronological leaps in the movie don't become cliché, and the solid acting ( and singing, in one scene ) help makes this film pretty moving.

Saturday, Nov. 6:

—Gen Silent ( RKJ ) : Stu Maddox's documentary is a thought-provoking examination of the additional challenges faced by aging members of the LGBT community. Compelling profile subjects help to elevate interest in a topic that needs more attention.

—Over the Moon ( RKJ ) : Local documentary filmmaker Charissa King-O'Brien continues the documentation of her life as part of a lesbian couple ( the previous In My Father's Church chronicled her desire and her partner's for a sanctioned church wedding ) . This time around she and her partner experience the trials and travails of trying to add a baby to their lives—but at what cost to their relationship?

—JoJo Baby ( AD ) : "Welcome to Narnia." And with those words, the viewer is brought into the often-surreal world of JoJo Baby, a Wicker Park-based dollmaker/artist/club personality. This documentary does not spare any details ( thankfully ) , ranging from a hunky guy getting a penis casting to JoJo talking about being HIV-positive and having abusive ex-lovers—and the story behind why he changed his name to JoJo Baby will break hearts. If this riveting documentary ( co-executive-produced by Clive Barker ) doesn't win an award soon, something is very wrong with this world.

—I Killed My Mother ( RKJ ) : The debut feature from 21-year-old French Canadian writer-director Xavier Dolan ( who also stars ) , this feisty dramedy crackles with vitality. The combative relationship ( poignant and hilarious ) between prickly, creative 16-year-old Hubert and his no-nonsense, conventional mother ( Anne Dorval, tremendous in a complicated performance ) is riveting in and of itself. Add in Dolan's knowing eye for character detail, offbeat camera set-ups and assured direction and you have the best gay foreign indie of the year. Fabulous. Absolutely.

—Kill the Habit ( AD ) : In this would-be dark comedy, Galia calls her friend Soti ( who longs for Galia ) when the former accidentally kills her drug dealer, Lyle, at the place he shares with his wife, Cardamosa—and the three eventually come up with a plan to dispose of the body. Any potential this movie has is killed ( pardon the plot-related pun ) by wooden acting, including an addict who is one of the most unconvincing straight guys this reviewer has seen.

—The Four Faced Liar ( SW ) : The fluidity of female sexuality is like a ping-pong ball in this dramedy about New York twentysomethings that Marja-Lewis Ryan adapted from her play. Lesbian Bridget ( Ryan ) and straight male roommate Trip ( Todd Kubrak ) befriend newbies Greg ( Daniel Carlise ) and Molly ( Emily Peck ) , but Bridget and Molly get too friendly and Molly has to make up her mind. The acting and direction are good but the writing sometimes made my teeth itch.

—Role/Play ( SW ) : At a Palm Springs, Calif., resort a closeted soap star ( Steve Callahan ) who's been outed by a sex tape meets a gay marriage activist ( Matthew Montgomery ) who's getting divorced. Writer-director Rob Williams has the actors recite talking points about the impact of their situations on the community in various stages of undress, often in bed. That's supposed to distract you from the fact that they're more concerned with diction than emotion.

Sunday, Nov. 7:

—The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister ( SW ) : A 19th-century heroine for our time, Anne ( Maxine Peake ) resists pressure to marry, insisting, "I have in mind to settle with a female companion." Finding another woman who's similarly inclined and equally bold is a problem, but perhaps not unsolvable. Jane English's Austen-tatious screenplay is taken from actual diaries ( four million words' worth ) written by an English lesbian, with intimate details in a code of her own devising. James Kent directed this BBC production.

—Violet Tendencies ( RKJ ) : The Facts of Life's Natalie ( Mindy Cohn ) , all grown up, plays the "last fag hag in Manhattan" looking for love and enlivens this latest dramedy from writer-director Caspar Andreas ( The Big Gay Musical, Slutty Summer, etc. ) . As with all of Andreas' movies, plenty of buff male eye candy leavens the usual romantic complications.

Monday, Nov. 8:

—From Beginning to End ( AD ) : This 2009 Brazilian film is filled with beauty, including that of the scenery and the hotness shared by male couple Francisco and Thomás ( João Gabriel Vasconcellos and Rafael Cardoso, respectively ) —who happen to be half-brothers. The movie shows the men as kids, and reveals how their relationship changed from brotherly to romantic. The men become so passionate with each other that the viewer may feel discomfort and inner conflict about close relatives who become each other's world—which just may be the filmmaker's intent.

Tuesday, Nov. 9:

—A Marine Story ( AD ) : In this drama, emotionally tortured Alexandra ( a tough-as-nails and ab-tastic Dreya Weber ) returns to her small hometown after her latest military deployment—only to end up training delinquent Saffron ( a game Paris P. Pickard ) , who is dealing with her own demons, to enter the military. Solid acting ( including a winning turn by Pickard ) results in the viewer bonding with the characters, and makes for a movie festival attendees should catch ( despite the wild denouement ) . The movie also features out actor Troy Ruptash, who is interviewed on page 17 and in this week's online issue of Windy City Times.

—Rock Hudson: Dark and Handsome Stranger ( RKJ ) : The career and off screen life of the closeted movie and TV star, whose untimely death from AIDS in 1985 propelled at last the epidemic into the national arena is examined in this illuminating documentary that includes on screen analysis of Hudson's impact and gossipy stories by friends, including Armistead Maupin. Chicagoist film writer and Queer Film Society member critic Rob Christopher will introduce the film. A co-presentation with the Queer Film Society.

—Handsome Harry ( RKJ ) : Jamey Sheridan stars in ( and produced ) this dramatic and sometimes affecting ( and other times, affected ) road-trip movie about an emotionally distant man ( Sheridan ) who tries to make amends for a brutal, life-changing beating he and his fellow Naval soldiers administered years before to a fellow soldier they discovered was gay. The high-profile cast includes Steve Buscemi, Aidan Quinn, John Savage and Campbell Scott.

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