Film Fest Preview: Chicago’s LGBTQ+ Reeling39, Sep. 23-Oct. 3, 2021

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CHICAGO – The 39th edition of the REELING International LBGTQ+ Film Festival kicks off on September 23rd, 2021, offering 33 feature films and nine short film programs. The Opening Night film is “Firebird,” and will screen at the historic Music Box Theatre beginning at 7pm. For more info and tickets, click REELING39.

Most of the festival will be offered in a “hybrid” format, with screenings available both in theaters and online. The 39th REELING Film Festival – facilitated by Chicago Filmmakers of the Edgewater neighborhood – continues to be one of the most important cultural events for Chicagoans. Below is a preview of five features, including the Opening Night Film. Click the link below to access the REELING39 website for ticket, schedule and film information.

REELING39 Opens with ‘Firebird’
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StarFILMS OF REELING39: Capsule Reviews

Screenings are throughout Chicago (theater indicated after capsule) …

“Firebird” – Based on a true story, Tom Prior is Sergey, a private in the Soviet Air Force. He works in a flight group with pilot and officer Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii) and is a confidant of a woman officer Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya). When Roman and Sergey begin a love affair, the opportunity for blackmail and expulsion floats to the surface. To divert attention, Roman marries Luisa, casting a pall over all the relationships. The attention to detail in this unusual historic love story is what sets it apart, along with the paranoia of being in the closet within an authoritarian society. The acting is precise, and the tragedy is expressive. Theater: September 23rd, Online: September 27th-October 3rd. Music Box Theatre, 3733 North Southport Avenue, Chicago

“North by Current” – An extraordinary documentary of redemption. When a Northern Michigan family goes through a crisis … a couple has been accused of domestic abuse in the death of their child, along from Chicago comes the wife’s brother Angelo, who has transitioned from her childhood life as female. Angelo is also a filmmaker, and chronicles the circumstances behind his sister’s peculiar life, and his responsibility within it. Achingly honest and authentic, with Angelo Madsen Minax’s practiced eye as an avant guard director. This film could help a lot of folks, especially in its themes of forgiveness. Watch for the interview with Angelo. Theater: September 25th, Online: September 28th-October 4th. Landmark Theater, 2828 North Clark, Chicago

“Marry Me However” – A documentary about another form of authoritarianism … religion. Even if Orthodox Jews are gay, the Torah strictly prohibits their biology and orientation. Both men and women are profiled as they struggle through this system, but the one thing that Judaism is always doing is reforming. The gay men and women work to reform the system from within, and those within the religion who protest the most seem to have the most at stake in their own lives. This is an exposé of sorts, but ultimately offers hope through the courage of those willing to be themselves. Theater: September 26th, Online: September 29th-October 5th. Landmark

“Boulevard! A Hollywood Story” – Wow just wow. This film reveals the stunning revelation that Gloria Swanson – the unforgettable star, portraying Norma Desmond, of “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) – found a couple of unknown songwriters to adapt the film into a musical, nearly 30 years before Andrew Lloyd Webber actually did it. Gay couple Dickson Hughes and Richard Shapley were the composers, and it is as much their story as Ms. Swanson’s. The film is bright, snappy and as ironic as you’d expect a story on this subject would be … especially the revelation that Gloria Swanson started to blur the line between herself and the Norma Desmond character. Great old-timey show business stuff. Theater: September 26th, Online: Online: September 29th-October 5th. Landmark

“Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Music” – Beyond the stereotypes of gay women singer/songwriters is a documentary of their longing to participate and perform in a largely patriarchal country music scene in Nashville. Director T.J. Purcell gets vital stories from women who had to stay in the closet, women coming to terms after a devastating loss of career and a transitioned male who still has his voice. Some of the hits they wrote were sung by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and more. The dignity and second acts are the key to their lives, and director Purcell brings them to deserved light. Watch for the interview with T.J. Theater: September 29th, Online: October 1st-October 7th. Landmark

For the interview with Tom Prior of “Firebird,” … CLICK HERE.

The 39th edition of REELING International LBGTQ+ Film Festival runs from September 23rd through October 3rd, 2021. For tickets, schedule and all information, click senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor, Film Writer

© 2021 Patrick McDonald,

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