The last movie I saw in a theater was The Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss. That was seven months ago, at the AMC Mazza Gallerie Cinema on Wisconsin Avenue. Had I known that lame thriller would be my last theatrical experience for months, I might have chosen something else.
That said, the next movie I’ll see in a theater will be — well, who knows what or even when that will happen? As a career film critic and longtime movie lover, I feel the best way to see any movie is in a communal setting with an audience. But these are strange, uncertain times and no movie — not even my all-time favorite, The Birds — is worth risking one’s life for. So we wait. Patiently. And until the time comes when it’s fully safe to gather in a movie theater — popcorn, Twizzlers, and jugs of sodas in hand — we adapt.
Reel Affirmations has adapted. Magnificently. The 27-year-old festival has made the choice to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic by using a slick virtual presentation platform, one increasingly popular with film festivals across the country. Although watching virtually removes the formal structure of a film festival — you choose when to watch your film, but are confined to a limited time frame once you press play — it also creates the opportunity to enjoy more films than ever before. The entire festival, if you want.
And why wouldn’t you want to enjoy hours of movies that affirm our place in the world, relay our stories, tickle our funnybones, and poignantly move our collective LGBTQ hearts. All the while supporting one of our most important local, cultural institutions. Seems a no-brainer to me.
By this point, we’ve likely all watched enough movies in the confines of our homes that enjoying this superb assortment of LGBTQ films in a different way shouldn’t feel all that strange. I do have a few suggestions, the most important being avoid the temptation to pause. When you choose to watch a film, make a commitment to it and experience it from start to end. Which means popping your corn ahead of time and using the restroom before you hit play. Also, watch on as big a screen as possible, aiming for a tablet at the very least. While six inches may be great for a lot of things, it doesn’t cut it when it comes to movie-watching.
This year’s Reel Affirmations lineup is astoundingly strong. A full eleven of the 20 programs were awarded a Metro Weekly Critic’s Pick. On the pages that follow, you’ll find honest assessments of each program, starting with the features and then moving to the shorts. We’ve kept things alphabetical this year, but you can view them in any order — with the exception of Monsoon and Tahara, which are screening at a unique Drive-In event on Thursday, Oct. 22.
I look forward to the day when we can once again gather in a darkened theater and collectively enjoy the festival. But until that day comes, grab your remote and experience the very best that contemporary LGBTQ cinema has to offer.
Reel Affirmations begins streaming in its entirety on Wednesday, Oct. 21, concluding on Sunday, Oct. 25. Programs can be purchased individually for $10 each. Festival packages are available for $25 (3 programs), $55 (6 programs) or $125 (all 18 virtual programs — an extraordinary deal).
Two of the films, Monsoon and Tahara will be shown exclusively at a Drive-In Theater event at Union Market. Tickets are separate for those screenings and cost $20 each. For full details, visit http://reelaffirmations.eventive.org.
Click the titles below to read our reviews of the features and shorts at this year’s festival!
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