The queer community increasingly finds its members pairing off and settling down in big cities and suburbs. That’s reflected in the Big Chill feel of this year’s Reeling: The Chicago 27th Annual Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, opening Thursday 6 and taking place around town. In this year’s films, coming out and fitting in has clearly taken a backseat to finding love, settling down and figuring out, with the help of friends and loved ones, the meaning of our gay lives.
Sexuality is anything but frosty in Antarctica, a steamy ensemble film about the intersection of queer lives in Tel Aviv. Cultural and political tensions are muted in favor of straight-up relationship woes centering around bookish Omer and his interconnected friends as they gather to celebrate his 30th birthday. Director Yair Hochner’s handling of complex gay and lesbian relationships will make this one of the few films that both sexes will find sexy.
Stateside, another group of friends find their urbane lives in upheaval in The New Twenty, a Manhattan-set drama centered around career-driven Adam and fiancée Julie, soulful, drug-addicted Felix and two queer characters including commitment-centric Tony and the stereotype-busting slacker Ben. Director Christopher Mason Johnson broadens the focus from sexual orientation to the complexities of adulthood.
Every film festival needs a couple of beefcake entries to satisfy the men, and 3-Day Weekend delivers that and little else. The film centers around a group of friends and strangers gathering at a mountain retreat for a relaxing weekend. The film trades blatantly in stereotypes that are too specific to Southern California for Midwestern audiences.
The wigs fly fast and furiously in Pageant, a new documentary that chronicles the lives of a half-dozen competitors as they vie for the title of Miss Gay America. Because the subject matter itself flirts heavily in camp territory, we get to revel in a barrage of terrific zingers (“I’d have to say Miss Piggy is one of my idols,” muses one contestant) while enjoying the aspirations of these do-or-die gender-benders.
Our Canadian friends serve up a generous heaping of wholesome gay goodness in opening night’s Breakfast with Scot, about a closeted sports announcer and his partner who suddenly find themselves reluctant parents. But there’s a twist: The kimono and makeup-wearing kid in question is swishier than a flushing toilet, and the couple must confront their own internal homophobia. It’s cloyingly sugary but worthy in a year when nasty propositions have placed gay families’ matters front and center.
An enjoyable women’s film comes from British auteur Shamim Sarif, who directs The World Unseen, based on her novel of the same name. Set in 1950s Cape Town, South Africa, at the onset of apartheid, it tells the story of two Indian women, free-spirited Amina who runs a café with her elderly black business partner, and buttoned-down Miriam, who yearns to escape her rural life and overbearing husband. Racial and cultural tensions come to a boil in this gorgeously shot melodrama.