Life Begins at 30: Chicago Reeling International Film Festival

reeling

Originally published in Extra Newspaper

When the Reeling International Film Festival first began in 1981, it was nothing more than a small collection of films presented at the Chicago Filmmakers’ 90-seat screening room. Since then, it has grown to become one of the longest running lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) film festivals in the world, second only to the Frameline International Film Festival in San Francisco.

Now in its 30th year, Reeling continues to highlight positive and diverse representations of gender and sexuality in LGBTQ cinema, not only from within Chicago and the United States, but also the rest of the world.

Running from Nov. 3 through 12, Reeling 2011 will showcase over 130 features, featurettes and short films from 21 different countries. This year’s list includes four films directly relevant to Latinos and Latin Americans: “Photos of Angie,” “Round Trip,” “My Last Round” and “Rosa Morena.”

Photos of Angie
Language: English
“Photos of Angie” tells the story of Angie Zapata, a trans Latina teenager from Greeley, Colo., that was brutally murdered in 2008. This documentary stands out as it addresses the critical issue of negative media representations of trans women and its detrimental effect on securing justice for them.

Created with the full support of Angie Zapata’s family, director Alan Domínguez masterfully unfolds the series of the events that lead up to Angie’s tragic death and closely follows the trial that proceeds. “Photos of Angie” demonstrates how a young, fearless woman is quickly painted by the defense as deceitful because she did not reveal to her attacker that she was trans. In blaming the victim, the defense argues that it’s this “lie” that is to blame for Angie’s violent attack and subsequent death, a narrative that is then repeated in mainstream media reporting on her death and murder trial.

This documentary, with its extensive interviews of Angie’s loving family, highlights the violence that trans people, particularly trans women, must face in order to live authentically.

“Photos of Angie” shows at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark Street, on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

Round Trip (Viaje Redondo)
Language: Spanish
Directed by Gerardo Tort, “Round Trip” follows Fer and Lucía, two young women from opposing economic classes, who by a strange turn of fate must share a car in order to reach each of their destinations. Tensions rise, however, when their ride is abruptly cut short when their car breaks down in the middle of the desert. Winner of Best Mexican Film, “Round Trip” exposes the sometimes fluid nature of female affection and sexuality.

Although well directed by Tort, it is the cast that shines. Bringing genuine humanity to their characters, Teresa Ruiz and Cassandra Ciangherotti, in their roles as Lucía and Fer (respectively), ensure that “Round Trip” is not your typical road trip movie by any means.

“Round Trip” shows at Instituto Cervantes, 31 West Ohio, on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

My Last Round (Mi Último Round)
Language: Spanish
Set in Chile, “My Last Round,” directed by Julio Jorquera Arriagada, centers around the tumultuous relationship between Hugo and Octavio, a local boxing champion. Although initially attracted to the much older Octavio for inexpressible reasons, Hugo quickly finds that he cannot resist his own emotions. When a doctor informs Octavio that he must give up boxing or risk dying in his next match, both men move to Santiago where they can start a life together.

Unfortunately, once in Santiago, their relationship shatters as Hugo engages in a flirtatious relationship with a female coworker. Octavio, in turn, returns to the ring knowing full well that this round may be his last.

Both captivating and evocative, “My Last Round” challenges stereotypical notions of queer masculinity and sexuality in Latin America while exposing the ways in which those notions are socially constructed, sometimes resulting in destructive consequences.

“My Last Round” shows at Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio, on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 4 p.m.

Rosa Morena
Language: Portuguese/Danish
“Rosa Morena” tells the story of Thomas, a gay Danish man who, unable to adopt in his home country due to homophobic laws against it, travels to Brazil in hopes of buying a child. Once in Brazil, Thomas befriends Maria, a single pregnant black woman from the favelas, who is interested in negotiating a price for her unborn child. Upon the birth of Maria’s daughter Rosa, Thomas becomes more involved in their lives, to the point that even the lines of his sexuality become blurred.

Directed by Carlos Augusto de Oliveira, “Rosa Morena” complicates traditional narratives of first-to-third-world adoption, bringing to the forefront issues of sexuality, gender, race and class.

What makes Oliveira’s film stand out from others like it is that it asks without judgment, opting instead to show the repercussions of heterosexist adoption laws in the first world and the growth of an illegal globalized adoption “market” in the third.

“Rosa Morena” shows at Century Landmark Theater, 2828 N. Clark Stree, on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 2:30 p.m.

For more information and for full schedule of events visit http://reelingfilmfestival.org

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Danny Olvera

The queer femme first-born of Mexican immigrant parents, Danny is no stranger to sticking out. A native Chicagoan, with a complicated relationship with LA and San Antonio, Danny can be found dancing arhymically on the dance floors of a queer Latin@ nightclub near you.

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