2015, South Africa, 104 min.
2013, Senegal, 12 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 7 p.m., $10 ($25 VIP)
What seemingly starts as a sexier, South African The Kids Are Alright, depicting a lesbian couple raising a teenage child in the suburbs, quickly transforms into a multi-faceted story focusing on various aspects of relationships. There's affairs, young love, sexual exploration, long-lost romances and the threat of being forced out of the closet. Catherine Stewart's film is sometimes unfocused and its script fails to devote enough time to any one aspect of its various narratives, but it's certainly compelling, with a strong performance from Camilla Lilly Waldman as a woman slowly uncovering her wife's affair. A shocking, somewhat unwarranted ending doesn't detract from While You Weren't Looking‘s intriguing premise.
Reel Affirmation's second African submission, The Other Woman is a beautifully realized short. Madaleine is a middle-aged housewife forced to accept a second, younger wife into her marriage. While their husband is away on business trips, the two women grow close, developing a relationship that teeters on the verge of sexual. Marie Ka's film bursts with vibrant colors, a startling contrast to the neutral tones of the feature it's paired with, showcasing confident direction and a compelling narrative. Awa Sene Sarr is captivating as the resigned Madaleine, while Khady Ndiaye Bijou shines as Amayelle, who slowly draws Madaleine from her shell.
2015, USA, 99 min.
2014, UK, 3 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 9 p.m., $10
Displaying an intelligence sorely missing from some features, Those People takes an oft-seen concept — unrequited love — and transforms it into something unique. Sebastian is the son of a disgraced, imprisoned hedge fund manager, blacklisted from society. Charlie, an inspiring artist, is the best friend who has long pined for him. Tim is the sexy, talented pianist who threatens to drive a wedge between the pair as he draws Charlie's focus. Joey Kuhn's film utilizes an excellent score — Gilbert and Sullivan features both musically and in the script — and confident direction, anchored with strong performances from its cast to produce a current, captivating drama.
Clocking in at three minutes including credits, Best puts the short in short film. It's a different sort of unrequited love to the feature it's paired with, one I won't spoil. Opening on a blowjob — no, really — its initially humorous tone quickly gives way to a sudden burst with emotion. It deals with hidden love, parental repression and sex, which is pretty impressive given its runtime.
2015, USA, 78 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 11 a.m., $10
Q&A with director follows screening
Nneka Onuora's documentary tackles an interesting subject: lesbians who discriminate against other lesbians. The Same Difference exposes what Onuora considers to be the hypocrisy of the lesbian community, and the misconceptions of gender roles and stereotypes. Can a butch lesbian ever be girly? Are fem lesbians trying to resemble their heterosexual counterparts? These questions and more are explored, but if you have any lingering curiosities, Reel Affirmations offers a Q&A with Onuorah after the screening.
2015, USA, 86 min.
2014, USA, 8 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 1 p.m., $10
Queer City is part of a new wave of filmmaking. Funded by Kickstarter, it asked for just $20,000 to make a documentary about LGBT people in New York, promising “Everyday people, extraordinary stories.” Its budget constraints are somewhat apparent in the finished product and its stories tend more towards the “ordinary” end of the spectrum, but if nothing else it proves that many LGBT people lead lives just as mundane as their straight counterparts. Watching a lesbian couple have dinner with their kids will be a scene familiar to families everywhere. Watching a porn producer audition men for her latest film, not so much.
Barrio Boy is arguably more compelling than the feature it's paired with. Production values are slick, Dennis Shinner's direction is strong and quality is high, as a handsome Latino barber in a macho neighborhood of Brooklyn falls in love with a male customer over the course of a standard cut and dry. His internal monologue details his desires, hopes and dreams for the pair, as he longs for the customer to acknowledge his attraction. It's humorous, heartfelt, and sexy — Dennis Garcia's barber is someone you'd gladly let cut your hair.
Various, Approx. 125 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 3 p.m., $10
Shorts are often a mixed bag, but this collection centered on women's stories strikes the perfect balance of emotional and abstract. What's Your Sign (2013, USA, 6 min.) finds two lesbian friends eyeing up prospects at an art gallery opening. There's a familiar, biting repartee between the two, with one feral and sexual and the other wistful and hopelessly romantic. The women quickly hone in on a single target, but there's an inspired kick to Alex Siow's film that is both sweet and savory. It's followed by Yolo (2013, Denmark, 22 min.), an abstract confection awash in bold, DayGlo colors, as three high school friends commandeer their empty high school for a wild, booze-and-fantasy-filled night. Marie Grahto's film is all over the place, but it's never dull, and the core — an awakening of sapphic desire between two of the girls — is surprisingly deep. Ultimately, it's one of those “What the Fuck?” movies, but there's no denying that it's incredibly enjoyable to watch. This collection's true “WTF?” film, however, is The Night is Ours (2014, USA, 14 min.), which features a gripping performance from Bex Taylor-Klaus as a tomboyish girl who has lost her best friend to a drowning accident. The resounding impact the grief has on her and the drastic steps she takes to quell it is heartbreaking, and the weird yet oddly logical path the narrative takes is what gives Night its potency.
Secrets and Toys (2014, USA, 13 min.) is a contrived stab at coming out. Quentin Lee's film would benefit from stronger pacing and less heavy-on-the-starch acting. Still, the punchline is amusing enough. Though essentially a marketing gimmick for the Cor.Collection, She Said She Said (2013, USA, 7 min.) is a slick little piece about a lesbian couple undergoing divorce mediation. It's bolstered by the presence of the alluring Marissa Tomei and Élodie Bouchez and an indelible cameo from the sensational Aubrey Plaza.
Ann Prim's inventive, sophisticated Notes From There (2014, USA, 13 min.) tells its story in part through expressive choreography, as immigration issues threaten a burgeoning love between two dancers. Don't expect a twist or resolution — this is very much a mood piece, and a very compelling one. Sugarhiccup (2014, USA, 17 min.) races through its story like a terrier on speed. It's a jittery, flamboyant tale of sapphic manipulation and unchecked obsession. There are some slick effects, and the performances will likely have more than one woman in crowd going, “I've dated someone like that,” but the movie ultimately burns out, offering up an awkward resolution.
Erin Sanger's Bombshell (2014, USA, 14 min.) is just that — and the deftness with which it tells its story of a 10-year-old tomboy's realization of who she is and her place in the world is nothing short of astonishing. It's matched in excellence by Stevie (2014, USA, 18 min.), which follows a similar thread, as a shy, young woman also realizes her heart's calling. Writer-director Chloe Jury-Fogel gives a strong leading performance in a story that plays out with tender, understated resonance.
Various, Approx. 114 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 5:15 p.m., $10
This sterling collection kicks off with Nomansland (2013, Denmark, 36 min.), an emotional suckerpunch from Denmark that leaves you breathless. At its core is the story of a man who simply wants to reconcile with his estranged partner, but in 30 minutes, Karsten Geisnæs's film traverses nearly every gay theme possible, from erotic to tragic. It's a powerful, potent piece, enhanced by Geisnæs's choice of color schemes to convey the protagonist's various state of mind. It doesn't hurt matters that lead actor Gerard Bidstrup is a smoldering, brooding hunk. His performance is soulful, rich, heartbreaking, hopeful.
Next up Mum (2013, USA, 11 min.), a wordless Cinderella romance that pieces itself together slowly, deliberately, like an elaborate puzzle. Alex Bohs is to be commended for taking initially perplexing, disparate elements and fusing them in a stunning “Ah ha!” moment. The grace note is a lovely, considered performance by David Thomases as the object of another man's affection. Das Phallometer (2014, Canada, 7 min.) is a one-note joke based on a sobering truth — up until recently, the Czech government deployed an penile apparatus to test the veracity of those seeking asylum, claiming intolerance to their homosexuality as the cause. The highly stylized movie makes a great visual gag out of a rather disturbing (and thankfully abandoned) technique.
Carlos Ocho's amusing Open Relationship (2014, Spain, 13 min.) finds two men in a five-year relationship pondering the possibility of embarking on an open relationship, but the rules and regulations they impose threaten to derail the attempt. I Do (2014, Brazil, 20 min.) would have benefited from a shorter running time as its joke about a man trying to get his reluctant partner to agree to marriage quickly wears thin. The ending, in particular, fizzles when it should pop. The collection positively explodes at the end, however, with the delightful you.me.bathroom.sex.now (2015, USA, 17 min.), in which a man who caught his boyfriend with his face buried nose-deep in the rump of another drowns his sorrows with a sass-mouthed drag queen bartender and a bitchy old barfly. Things perk up with the arrival of a handsome, horned German who lures the despondent customer into the bathroom. Suffice to say you might see a lot of cocktail napkins with the film's title scrawled on it in weeks to come. Also on the bill: Scaffolding (2013, Spain, 14 min.), which was unavailable for screening.
2014, Venezuela, 100 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 7:15 p.m., $10
Based on seminal lesbian play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers, Fina Torres' drama updates the setting and streamlines the narrative to stunning effect. Eva, on her way to a vacation with her husband, finds herself staying at a lesbian retreat on an idyllic beach. There, she meets a close-knit group of friends anchored by the dynamic, passionate Liz (Patricia Velasquez, in an utterly captivating performance) who determines to coax Eva into her bed. The film explores mortality, legacy, friendship, love and loss, with Celiana Cárdenas' cinematography contrasting the raw emotions often on display with the dreamlike beauty of the location. As the credits roll, so will your tears.
2015, USA, 90 min.
2014, USA, 17 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 9 p.m., $10
Philipp Karner writes, directs and stars in Like You Mean It, which both explains and complements the inherent narcissism of its central character, Mark. It documents the slow, seemingly inevitable breakdown of his relationship with Jonah (the lovely Denver Milord). When we say slow, we mean it — the audience will call where this feature is heading within the first ten minutes, but it takes its sweet time getting there. Perhaps that reflects real life, where resolution in relationships is neither swift nor easy. Regardless, Karner's feature both thrives on and suffers from its obsession with his character, someone few audience members will empathize with.
Tom in America boasts two Academy Award nominees, Burt Young and Sally Kirkland, as a couple married for 50 years. While rummaging in garbage for items to sell at the couple's flea market stall, Michael (Young) finds a Tom of Finland doll. Upon learning that it's a collector's item, he Googles its creator only to ignite feelings he's repressed for five decades. When Betty (Kirkland) finally confronts her husband, it's a heartbreaking exchange as she pleads for her husband to explain if it's her fault that he isn't sexually attracted to her. If anything, Tom in America should have been longer — we weren't ready to leave Flavio Alves' world after just a quarter hour, which speaks volumes to the quality of his film.
2014, US/UK, 88 min.
2014, USA, 5 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 11:15 p.m., $10
If you aren't in the mood for graphic sex — we're talking blowjobs, watersports, erections, anal sex and lots of semen — don't attend the showing of Charles Lum and Todd Verow's Age of Consent. It documents The Hoist, a men-only fetish club in London built for sweaty, leather-clad, boot-wearing sex. It's quite something that around its midpoint, Age of Consent transforms from a sexy exploration of fetishism into a semi-serious documentary about the treatment of Britain's gay population, the ravages of HIV, the repression of sexuality by authorities, the changing nature of fetishes and the dangers of chem sex. An example of its filmmaking: as renowned gay rights activist Peter Tatchell discusses the medieval laws used to constrain gay men and their sex lives in the '80s and '90s, Lum and Verow contrast it with images of two men in the club engaging in oral sex and masturbation. Enter if you dare.
A perfect compliment to Age of Consent, the music video for Holopaw's “Dirty Boots” follows a gang of gay bikers as they suit up and venture out for another day of hedonistic sex. It's sweaty, dirty, raw and crammed with leather — just like The Hoist, then. The music isn't bad, either.
2015, USA, 95 min.
2013, UK, 25 min.
2015, USA, 19 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 1 p.m., $10
Q&A with Game Face director follows screening
Michiel Thomas' fascinating documentary offers incredible insight into the struggles of coming out in hetero-dominated sports. its main focus is transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox and gay college basketball star Terrence Clemens. Fox faced ridiculous levels of criticism and judgement following the revelation that she was transgender, despite passing the requisite certification tests. Clemens was forced out of a high school team due to homophobia and fears the same reaction at college level, so hides his sexuality from his teammates and friends. One truly stunning scene contrasts the reaction of one of Fox's opponents to her gender identity — after beating Fox in a match, she privately tells her that she supports her and considers her incredibly brave. In the next scene, she's shown telling an MMA network that Fox should be in her own trans league and that Fox had an advantage due to being born male. It's a gripping, emotional hour-and-a-half of cinema.
An unusual film, Brace deals with the isolation and rejection of trans men in mainstream society — both gay and straight. Jake Graf writes and stars as Adam, who splits from his girlfriend in the opening scenes and starts to explore London's gay nightlife. There, he meets Rocky, the pair embarking on a passionate romance, though both have a secret to tell. Including a brutal homophobic attack and a dramatic ending, Brace is sure to hit a little too close to home for some, but it's engrossing nonetheless — if a little rough around the edges.
Trans icon Buck Angel stars in this short about a trans couple seeking to repair their relationship by expanding their sexual horizons. Joel Moffett's film is unconventional in setting, in subject matter and in style — entirely appropriate, given its sexy, humorous exploration of a world outside the cisgender norm. Rocco (Angel) and Candy (Marianna Marroquin) are captivating characters that effectively subvert the “traditional” relationships presented in most of the films in this festival.
2015, USA, 68 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 3:15 p.m., $10
At just over an hour, The Year We Thought About Love offers a brief glimpse into the world of True Colors, an LGBTQ youth theater project. Using their personal experiences, they develop and star in mini plays, which they tour around schools and other locations to teach people about LGBTQ people, in an effort to stamp out homophobia and ignorance. The youth shown are nothing short of remarkable — they cover the entire spectrum of sexuality and gender identity or noncomformity and their wit, passion and strength is captivating to behold. Ellen Brodksy's film feels unnecessarily rushed, but that's perhaps because you won't be ready to say goodbye to its subjects after just over an hour with them.
2015, USA, 86 min.
2014, Denmark, 8 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 5 p.m., $10
Jay Dockendorf's comedy-drama offers an unusual spin on the classic coming out tale. Naz (Kerwin Johnson Jr.) and Maalik (Curtiss Cook Jr.) are two first-generation Muslim teens struggling with their sexuality who come to be spied upon by the FBI's Brooklyn chapter. Their secrecy — stemming from a desire to keep their relationship hidden from their families — leads the Bureau to suspect them as active participants in the War on Terror. It's an interesting take on life in post-9/11 New York, inspired by Dockendorf's interviews with real Muslims who experienced the same treatment from the FBI.
An Afternoon is awkward, almost painfully so. It's tense, to the point of being uncomfortable. Expectation and dread hang in the air like noxious gas. Søren Green's film about a teenage boy struggling with his feelings for his best friend is exactly what it should be — if you've ever harbored such desires you'll empathise strongly with the emotions at play here. Ulrik Windfeldt-Schmidt delivers a great performance as Mathias, who longs for his friend but can't drum up the courage to admit it, but it's Jacob August Ottensten who knocks it out of the park as Frederik.
2014, Canada, 83 min.
GALA/Tivoli, 7 p.m., $10 ($25 VIP)
A fantastic closer for the festival, Pat Mills' film shows that not all writer-director-star projects are created equal. His command of the camera is confident, his script bursts with dark comedy, his presence on screen is utterly captivating. At no point does this feel like a vanity project. An alternate-reality version of Mill's own life as a child actor, it centers on David Gold, a former child star who now lives alone, drowning his sorrows in alcohol, drugs and reruns of his show. Desperate for money, he acts his way into a job as a high school guidance counsellor where he proceeds to provide the worst possible advice to students while spiralling ever further downward. It's laugh-out-loud funny, but Mills never allows his script to wander into farce. There's pathos here and it earns the right to its twisted, outlandish second half. A strong supporting cast and tight editing keep things moving, but this is Mills' film in every sense. We can't recommend it enough.
All films will be screened at the GALA Hispanic/Tivoli Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW. Tickets are $10 for each program, with VIP and Festival Passes ranging from $20 to $275. Visit reelaffirmations.org.
Diva Director VIP Pass — $265
Priority Entry and VIP (guaranteed) seating and everything from the Executive Producer VIP Pass plus one RA XTRA five-month pass.
Executive Producer VIP Pass — $170
Priority entry/VIP (guaranteed) seating into all films including opening and closing night films/celebrations, special VIP/Filmmaker Reception (TBD), 1 comp cocktail/popcorn per day and recognition.
All-Access Festival Pass — $135
Priority entry into all films/shorts programs including either the opening or closing night film with celebration.
Festival Pass — $110
Priority entry into all films/shorts programs excluding the opening and closing night films.
Six Pack Film Pass — $50
Priority entry into six programs, excluding opening and closing night films.
Threesome Film Pass — $20
Priority entry into 3 programs of your choice, excluding opening and closing night films.
Single Price General Admission Tickets — $10
Good for any program.
Opening Night/Closing Night VIP Tickets — $25
Entry into Opening Night or Closing night Film, Catered Reception and one complimentary cocktail.
Visit reelaffirmations.org/vip_and_festival_passes for more information or to order your passes.
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