The 33rd annual Reeling Film Festival, the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in America, kicks off this weekend with dozens of screenings of movies from all over the world. With close to 50 options, and many playing at the same time, there's no way to see them all. But here's a quick list of the standout films playing this weekend (all films selected will play at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema at 2828 North Clark St.).
On the island of São Vicente in Cape Verde, the vibrant transgender community is practically headed by Tchinda Andrade, a respected transgender woman—so well-known that, according to directors Pablo García Pérez de Lara and Marc Serena, tchinda has come to mean "queer Cape Verdeans." In this award-winning documentary, Tchinda and her friends prepare for the annual Carnival festival, and reveal what life is like for the small transgender community off the coast of Africa.
Saturday, September 19, at 5 p.m.
Full disclosure: I met director Joey Kuhn a few times when I was living in New York years ago. But even if I hadn't, I'd be all about seeing this film, which has racked up a ton of great press around the country, and even won the audience award for best first U.S. dramatic feature at Los Angeles's Outfest in July. The story revolves around Charlie, a 20-something artist in Manhattan, and his group of privileged Upper East Side pals, especially best friend Sebastian (with whom, of course, Charlie would like to be more than friends).
Saturday, September 19, at 7:15 p.m.
Margarita, with a Straw
Based in part on her own cousin with cerebral palsy, Delhi–based director Shonali Bose charts the tale of Laila, an Indian girl with cerebral palsy who travels to NYU for a writing program and gets swept up in what's going on in the Big Apple. During an Occupy Wall Street protest she meets Khanum, a Bangladeshi-American woman, and the two slowly fall for each other. The film was voted best feature film by the audience at San Francisco's Frameline Awards, and you can expect an equally welcoming crowd on Sunday.
Sunday, September 20, at 4:45 p.m.
The semi-fictional story of the 1969 riots outside the Stonewall Inn in New York has garnered some serious criticism since its first trailer was released. By centering the story on a white gay man, the movie is the latest blockbuster to "erase trans activists of color," says Salon, and activists in Chicago are calling for a boycott. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) responded to the critics, saying "when this film—which is truly a labor of love for me—finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there." Judge for yourself at this advance screening. (It opens nationwide on September 25.) And if you still need to be convinced, stars Jeremy Irvine and Johnny Beauchamp will be on hand to answer questions.
Sunday, September 20, at 7 p.m.
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page star in this tale of the struggle for benefits for same-sex couples in the years just before marriage equality became a reality. Based on the true story of Laurel Hester, the New Jersey cop who was diagnosed with cancer and fought to extend her pension benefits to her partner, the film is already attracting Oscar buzz for Moore—but don't miss the "potent performance" of Chicago native Michael Shannon as Hester's partner.
Monday, September 21, at 7 p.m.
She's the Best Thing in It
Freeheld screenwriter Ron Nyswaner pulls double duty at the festival with this documentary of Tony Award-winning actress Mary Louise Wilson (Grey Gardens), who shares stories from her legendary career and an equally impressive wit. Theater buffs will also love the interviews with Frances McDormand, Melissa Leo, Tyne Daly, Estelle Parsons, Valerie Harper, and Charlotte Rae.
Monday, September 21, at 9:30 p.m.
For the full schedule and list of movies, visit the Reeling Film Festival website.