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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

10 Movies to See at Reeling 2017: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival

Tomorrow night Reeling 2017: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival begins its 35th year of presenting movies that celebrate the amazing diversity of the queer experience. During the last few weeks I've watched many of this year's featured films, and below I have selected my Top 10 favorites in order of preference (click on a title for more information). Unfortunately, I was not able to see preview screeners for Chavela, EastSiders 3: Go West, En Algun Lugar, Freak Show, Happiness Adjacent or The Pass, but I hope that you will check them out - along with some of my selections - during Reeling, which runs September 21 to 28.

Reeling's main venue will once again be Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark), and for advance tickets, festival passes and a complete schedule of films, go to

1) The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Directed by David France
USA (105 minutes)
France, whose first documentary was 2012's Oscar-nominated How to Survive a Plague, now turns his attention to gay rights activist and trans icon Marsha P. Johnson, who helped ignite the Stonewall uprising in 1969. The fascinating film follows transgender activist Victoria Cruz as she reopens the case of Johnson's mysterious death in 1992 that the NYPD ruled a suicide by drowning. France also tells the story of Marsha's close friend, Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002), another transgender activist, who insisted that Marsha was not suicidal.

Show time: 12:15 pm, Saturday, September 23

2) Woman on Fire
Directed by Julie Sokolow
USA (90 minutes)
This inspiring documentary is about Brooke Guinan, the first openly transgender FDNY firefighter whose difficult coming out story is explored.

Show time: 7:15 pm, Wednesday, September 27

3) Sensitivity Training
Written and directed by Melissa Finell
USA (87 minutes)
This often hilarious character study focuses on Dr. Serena Wolfe, a gifted but abrasive microbiologist who is forced to take sensitivity training in order to keep her job. Australian actress Anna Lise Phillips provides many laughs as the callous doctor, and Jill E. Alexander is equally good as Serena's bubbly sensitivity coach. Executive producer Charles Haid (Hill Street Blues) and actress Amy Madigan also make cameo appearances as Serena's parents. Ms. Finell is expected to attend the screening.

Show time: 7:00 pm, Saturday, September 23

4) Dating My Mother
Written and directed by Mike Roma
USA (81 minutes)
This charming comedy is about Danny (Patrick Reilly), a gay recent college graduate who has moved back home with his widowed mother Joan (Kathryn Erbe). The supporting cast includes Paul Iacono, James Le Gros and the always entertaining Kathy Najimy as Joan's best friend. Mr. Roma is expected to attend the screening.

Show time: 12:00 pm, Saturday, September 23

5) Prom King, 2010
Written and directed by Christopher Schaap
USA (96 minutes)
The talented Schaap also stars as Charlie, a former high school prom king who spends his college years looking for love with all the wrong people. He just wants to find someone to cuddle with while watching Breakfast at Tiffany's or His Girl Friday - and it's an awkward and often painful journey that most of us can probably relate to. Mr. Schaap is expected to attend the screening.

Show time: 4:45 pm, Saturday, September 23

6) Center of My World
Written and directed by Jakob M. Erwa
Germany (115 minutes)
This coming-of-age romantic drama is about 17-year-old Phil and his relationships with the women in his life - his free-spirited mother Glass, his twin sister Dianne and his best friend Kat. He then falls in love with Nicholas, a gorgeous jock with whom he is soon taking steamy showers. The entire cast give excellent performances, including Jannik Schümann, who also provides some pleasant eye candy as Nicholas.

Show time: 7:00 pm, Wednesday, September 27

7) Saturday Church
Written and directed by Damon Cardasis
USA (90 minutes)
The festival's Closing Night film is this musical drama about Ulysses, a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality and gender identity (in one scene, he and his high school bullies burst into song in a locker room). All of the performances are wonderful, including Luka Kain as Ulysses, Margot Bingham as his concerned mother, Regina Taylor as his religious aunt, and Marquis Rodriguez and transgender actresses MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore and Alexia Garcia as his new friends at Saturday Church, a weekend program and safe environment for LGBTQ youth.

Show time: 7:00 pm, Thursday, September 28

8) Hello Again
Directed by Tom Gustafson
USA (105 minutes)
The festival's Opening Night film is this lusty film adaptation of Michael John LaChiusa's 1994 Off-Broadway musical that features a series of steamy hookups among ten characters during ten different decades. The engaging cast includes Martha Plimpton as a senator who's involved with an actress (Audra McDonald) and a prostitute (Fear the Walking Dead's Sam Underwood), Glee's Jenna Ushkowitz as a nurse/canteen volunteer who becomes better acquainted with her young patient (Al Calderon) and a soldier (Nolan Gerard Funk), Cheyenne Jackson as a filmmaker/songwriter who has intimate encounters with a "young thing" (Pretty Little Liars' Tyler Blackburn) and a temperamental singer (McDonald), and T. R. Knight and Rumer Willis as an unhappily married couple. Mr. Blackburn, Ms. Ushkowitz, Mr. Gustafson and writer/producer Cory Krueckeberg are expected to attend the screening.

Show time: 7:00 pm, Thursday, September 21, at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport)

9) After Louie
Directed and co-written by Vincent Gagliostro
USA (100 minutes)
The Tony Award-winning Alan Cumming (Cabaret, The Good Wife) delivers a terrific performance as an artist and former AIDS activist who becomes involved with a much younger man (Zachary Booth) in this moving drama, which also stars Wilson Cruz, Everett Quinton, Justin Vivian Bond and David Drake.

Show time: 7:30 pm, Friday, September 22

10) B&B
Written and directed by Joe Ahearne
United Kingdom (87 minutes)
If you can suspend your disbelief over the improbable premise - a married gay couple return to stay at a B&B after winning a court case against its homophobic Christian owner - the film is a suspenseful tale of unexpected twists and turns. It also doesn't hurt that lead actor Sean Teale (Mr Selfridge, Reign) is very easy on the eyes.

Show time: 9:15 pm, Sunday, September 24

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