Reeling Film Festival

My spouse and I just moved to Chicago from the Bay Area, and we thought what better way to get acquainted with the lgbt community than to go to the Reeling Film Festival. We were really excited to check out the offerings, go stand on line and meet random people attending the films. We have attended the Frameline Festival in San Francisco for years, and it is an incredible community event. Great people watching, chance encounters with old friends and random strangers. We had no allusions that this would be as big or as well-attended as the SF festival, but I figured that it would be a smaller perhaps rootsier festival. I guess for that reason I expected it to be an even more important community event for the lgbt community.

So, G and I purchased tickets to several screenings. We’re a fan of the shorts because they are often really interesting and impossible to see anywhere else. We knew they wouldn’t be the most well-attended, but I figured someone would be there besides us. Not so. I would guess there were fewer than 25 people in the audience at the first three screenings we attended. Granted, they were all on school nights, but I was really disappointed that more people didn’t make an effort to get out and see these films. I guess I was expecting a little more enthusiasm from the crowds. I was expecting a little more of a crowd, for starters.

Perhaps this is due to the poor organization of the event. At each venue, none of the volunteers seemed to know what they were doing. It makes me wonder about the community outreach and marketing. We found out about it through Internet research, and there was a publication at the Whole Foods on Halstead. I also heard about on Public Radio here, so it seems that word is definitely out about it.

The films themselves have been pretty good, a mix of course. Some less good than others, but definitely worth making an effort to see. Nothing knocked my socks off, though Red Without Blue was certainly exceptional. This documentary about identical twins, one of whom goes through the transformation of becoming a woman, took me through the gamut of emotions. Her entire family goes through a transformation along side her and comes full circle back to acceptance and love. Truly an amazing story. I also loved Worst Case Scenario: Butch Edition, the super 8 short about etiquette for butch dykes to help them navigate through the dicey situation of holding doors open for femmes and their mothers.

Some of the films were miscategorized. Among the documentary shorts was Tokens, a film about a Mormon woman in the process of coming out. While this film was about the real-life experience of the filmmaker, it was more of an artistic expression rather than an actual documentary. Also, in Funny Lingus, lesbian comedy shorts there was Rub my Chub, which should have been among the documentaries. There were funny moments in this movie, but the women in this film are activists, and the film itself is about a serious subject. It seemed to me to be disrespectful to include this film with the comedy films.

The one sold-out film that we saw was Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Finally, a crowd. We had the experience we were looking for! We ran into someone we know (amazing!), and we chatted with random strangers. We checked out the crowd, making observations to each other about how the edgy “alternative” folks look the same everywhere; tattoos, pink or green hair, pierced lips and eyebrows. We looked for doppelgangers of ourselves and our friends.

The movie itself was a little bit of a disappointment. Its a coming of age story about young lesbians becoming radical activists, embracing the concepts of feminist theory, and acting on them by committing act of infoterrorism a la Act Up and the Guerrilla Girls. It had it’s funny moments, and it is refreshing to see an intellectual and political comedy. Good effort over all, but I really hated the ending. No spoilers here just in case, but let me know if you’d like to know why I hated it so much.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of turn out and excitement in the community for this event. I’m not sure if this is any indication of what the lgbt community in Chicago is like, and perhaps I am jaded coming from California where one can take for granted that queers are everywhere. G and I stopped going to the Pride Parade there because it was so commercial. I’m withholding judgment for future queer events, holding out hope that next year there will be more enthusiasm, interest and dialog in the community about the festival. Perhaps next year we’ll feel more connected to the community. That will probably help, too.

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