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    Knight at the Movies: Reeling: The second week
by Richard Knight, Jr.
2009-11-11

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Richard Ganoung ( star of the gay classic Parting Glances and the Sean Hayes comedic vehicle Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss ) Queer Eye's Jai Rodriguez and a host of behind the camera LGBT filmmakers will attend the second week of Reeling 2009, the 28th edition of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian film festival.

Fest director Brenda Webb has again overseen the wide-ranging selection of LGBT film fare that promises a continued array of highlights as the series approaches its finale, the Sunday, Nov. 15 screening of Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!, starring actress and singer Lainie Kazan and its after-party festivities ( more on that later ) .

But before that, festival goers will have a lot to choose from. Some second-week highlights include the Thursday, Nov. 12, screening of the endearing Swedish dramedy Patrik, Age 1.5, in which gay couple Göran and Sven decide to adopt a baby to round out their new dream life in suburbia. But a typo on the application instead dumps a homophobic 15-year-old juvenile delinquent on their doorstep, helping to escalate troubles in the relationship and in their supposedly tolerant neighborhood. That's followed by Just Say Love, a two-character filmed play ( with stylized lighting and sets ) about two polar opposites—the artistic and philosophically inclined Guy who is gay and Doug, the "straight" hunky dodo construction worker—who fall for each other against the odds. Both films screen at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark—Patrik at 7 p.m. and Just Say Love at 9:15 p.m.

Laura Harring, star of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, headlines the lesbian black comedy Drool. Harring plays a harried housewife, subjected to abuse by her racist husband ( Oded Fehr from The Mummy ) and disrespect from her teenage kids ( becoming a spiritual cousin to both Mink Stole's Peggy Gravel in John Waters' Desperate Living and Divine's Francine Fishpaw in Waters' Polyester ) . A friendship with her new African-American neighbor, Imogene ( Jill Marie Jones of TV's "Girlfriends" ) , blossoms into something more until the husband walks in, discovering the romance. All hell breaks loose with darkly comedic results. Drool screens on Friday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. at Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash. It's followed by a 9 p.m. screening of ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction. Sooner or later, a queer addition to the killer-zombie genre had to arrive and ZMD, a horror comedy ( cleverly billed as a "political zomedy" ) in the tradition of Evil Dead/Drag Me to Hell auteur Sam Raimi, is great fun. Prepare yourself for lots and lots of gross-out gore and plenty of tongue-in-cheek dialogue a la Shaun of the Dead.

The Queer Film Society ( QFS ) —the film group that I started with my fellow queer film critics, academics and historians last spring—will co-host with Reeling a discussion panel on the state of queer cinema Saturday, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m. The panel, titled "New Queer Cinema," will be moderated by Time Out film section editor and critic Hank Sartin and includes Gay Chicago Magazine editor and film critic Jonathan Lewis; Columbia College Film Department co-chair and author Joe Steiff; Nick Davis, assistant professor of English and gender studies at Northwestern University; myself; and perhaps most pertinent to the topic, out actor Ganoung. Will the rapidly growing number of indie films, mainstream movies and television programming featuring gay characters and themes increase recognition of queer audiences by the Hollywood studio system? Is Hollywood up to the task of accurately representing the LGBTQ community? Why don't queer audiences support queer movies when they're in theatres? What stories are still untold? Is Neil Patrick Harris the Great White Hope for gay superstardom? Does he have a female counterpart? More importantly—will others follow in his footsteps ( should that be the case ) ? Are we ever going to see a Hollywood leading male actor ( and actress ) come out in our lifetime and continue to be a box-office draw? The panel will include audience members in discussing these and other topics.

Ganoung will stick around for a screening of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss at 5 p.m. and a post-audience Q&A with film critic Charlie Shoquist, another co-presentation of Reeling and the QFS. This is a rare opportunity to see out director Tommy O'Haver's 1998 charming romantic comedy on the big screen. Sean Hayes stars as the adorable Billy, a photographer who is unlucky in love and career. He convinces the hunky "straight" Gabriel ( Brad Rowe of Shelter fame ) to pose for a series of sexy man-on-man recreations of famous screen kisses, and the "Is he, isn't he?" tension starts to rise. Will Billy get the perfect photo? Will Gabriel turn out to be gayer than he claims? Will Billy ever notice his sweet friend Perry ( Ganoung ) ? O'Haver delivers lighthearted laughs, erotic tension and heartfelt lessons in love. Note: Due to a scheduling conflict O'Haver, who was scheduled to appear at the screening, will not be present. The New Queer Cinema panel discussion is free, and admission to Billy is $10 ( $8 for Reeling members ) . Both events take place at Film Row Cinema.

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Also screening on Saturday, Nov. 14, is Rivers Wash Over Me, Reeling's dramatic centerpiece. After the death of his mother in New York, Sequan Green, a sensitive African-American gay teen, is sent to live with relatives in backwoods Alabama. To say that Sequan has trouble adapting is putting it mildly in this entertaining melodrama highlighted by Derrick L. Middleton's performance in the leading role. The movie screens at 9 p.m. at Film Row Cinema.

The festival ends on Sunday, Nov. 15, with a 7:30 p.m. screening ( at the Music Box Theatre—3733 N. Southport ) of the aforementioned Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!, the latest in a long line of ethnic-based comedies in which a closeted gay must finally, finally come out to his stunned but eventually supportive family ( think Mambo Italiano, The Wedding Banquet, etc. ) . Evgeny Afineevsky's film is greatly aided by his willing cast, headed by Lainie Kazan, Saul Rubinek, Bruce Vilanch ( playing straight as the wacky uncle ) , Carmen Electra, Vincent Pastore and Jai Rodriguez as the frustrated boyfriend. Afineevsky and Rodriguez will attend both the screening and festive after party at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N. Ravenswood, kicking off at 9 p.m.

There are many other second-week films, short and long, worth checking out. Find out complete festival information, tickets, theatres and locations by calling 773-293-1447 or visiting www.reelingfilmfestival.org .

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