Reeling 32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival

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Reeling 32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival kicks off this Thursday, September 18th and runs through Thursday, September 25th at various locations, with the Landmark (2828 N. Clark) as its main venue.

Here are some of the top picks for lesbian films in this year’s line-up:

Appropriate Behavior

Outspoken twenty-something Shirin is a bit of an awkward mess—she can’t come out to her family, she’s in the process of a breakup with her girlfriend (no, you take the strap-on!), and her long-term career prospects are non-existent.

In spite of being an unapologetic bisexual in her personal life, Shirin is still trying to live up to her Iranian family’s ideals and traditions while regularly—and quite comedically—hinting at her sexuality. As she navigates New York’s dating scene through online hook-ups, random threesomes and desperate attempts to make her ex jealous, Shirin’s identity crisis culminates as she goes from being part of a Park Slope “It Couple” (at least in her own mind) to being an aimless cynic in a shabby Bushwick apartment.

Writer, director and Sundance darling Desiree Akhavan’s semi-autobiographical Shirin both abhors and subscribes to hipster self-importance, and is somehow—at her best and worst—sardonic, childish, amusing and inappropriate. Interspersed with flashbacks of the ups and downs of Shirin’s relationship with her ex-girlfriend, Appropriate Behavior has realistic, multi-faceted characters, sharp dialogue, and takes a modern and honest look the fluidity of sexuality, the process of coming out on your own terms and the evolution of losing and finding yourself.

Out in the Night

One night in 2006, the lives of seven African American lesbians were ruined. The infuriating documentary Out in the Night explores the case of The New Jersey 4, named for the four out of seven who plead not guilty to attacking a male “admirer” who threatened to screw them straight after they rebuffed his advances.

Occurring in the heart of New York’s West Village, historically a queer safe haven, what transpired that night is shown through interviews with the accused, their families, and social justice activists, plus security footage that captured the assault and readings from court transcripts.

With no previous criminal records and, quite frankly, a history of having no reason to trust those who are paid to “protect and serve,” the women’s sexuality was sensationalized in the media: “Gang of Killer Lesbians!” Though the man in the case escaped with non-life threatening stab wounds from a kitchen knife that one of the women carried for protection, and the women had chunks of hair ripped out and their own injuries, an all-white jury of their “peers” doomed them to Draconian sentencing.

Like too many cases before theirs and so many after, the ruling and treatment by the media once again conveys that people of color have no right to defend themselves, and shows how the system—steeped in misogyny, homophobia and racism—marginalizes and fails us.


Raspy-voiced and sarcastic Kat is getting older, is yet to be married, and just broke up with her long-term boyfriend. When her mother buys her two slots at a New Age couples healing retreat, her statuesque best friend Sam convinces her to go for the free massages and a bit of relaxation. All they have to do is pretend to be a lesbian couple…no big deal for these longtime friends. And it might be a bit of a hoot!

After creating a convincing back-story on their “relationship troubles,” Kat and Sam spend their days doing exercises for their issues while trying to contain their amusement at the other weird couples in their group. But all of the feeling sharing starts taking its toll on their friendship and culminates with an intimacy exercise that starts to get a little weird. A moving but still hilarious comedy, BFFs explores the thin line between friendship love and relationship love with the person who knows you best.

Also playing:

The Foxy Merkins

Like Midnight Cowboy and American Gigolo before it, The Foxy Merkins is reminiscent of the sexy and tragic films that define the male hustler genre. Except without males. Or the sexy. And minus effective hustling skills. Really, this film imagines what it would be like if everyday lesbians were out in the mean streets of New York with only their women’s studies degrees to keep them warm at night, as they hustle in front of Talbot’s in hoodies, always waiting for the next closeted Republican congresswoman to slip them a hotel room key.

Margaret is an overweight, asthma-having newbie in spectacles and carpenter jeans, and can’t quite make it on the streets. She doesn’t even know how to pick the right merkin! When Jo, a gay-for-pay grifter from a rich family, takes Margaret under her slightly untrustworthy wing, she starts to turn more, and learn more, tricks—like, a yellow bandana in your back pocket means you have more than one cat. Living under the sink in the Port Authority bathroom, their adventures in the sex trade range from the absurd to the unclassifiable, as Margaret tries to find her long lost mother and Jo tries to snare a husband.

Crazy Bitches

With its remote location up in the mountains, the Benton Estate is known for being the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway…as long as you don’t mind the possibility of it being haunted by the souls of murdered teenage girls. When seven sorority sisters rent the property and invite their best gay BJ to join them for a vacation, BJ tells them the scary history of horror upfront. Undeterred, the women settle in, excited for wine, a little nookie with the locals and gossip with old pals.

And they have a lot to gossip about! New mom Alice is shocked to find out how many of her friends know about her husband cheating – intimately. Dorri, the most grounded of the bunch, is hiding a life-changing secret. Taylor, the redheaded virgin is being chased by the lithe, soft butch Cassie, who is being secretly chased by Minnie. And Princess and Belinda are just there to be…crazy bitches.
When someone starts picking them off one-by-one, with methods that play on each person’s vanity, accusations start flying and the darkness in the house changes all of them. Crazy Bitches features well-known faces such as Guinevere Turner (The L Word), Candis Cayne (Dirty Sexy Money), and Cathy DeBuono (And Then Came Lola, 3Way).

For the full festival lineup and to view film trailers, be sure to check out the website. Follow @reelingfilmfest on Twitter for the latest festival news and ticket promotions.

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About Angelique

Angelique worked in advertising for six years, but quit once they stole her soul. She has been the Marketing & PR Director for Reeling, Chicago’s LGBT International Film Festival, for the last three years. She can currently be seen going out too much and ignoring the stack of books on her floor that she really wants to find the time to read.


One Response to “Reeling 32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival”

  1. Very useful post!
    Thank you.

    Posted by Breedstraler | October 17, 2014, 12:15 pm

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