Metro Weekly

LGBTQ Film Reviews: Reel Affirmations’ “Cultures of Queer” Shorts Program

'2 Dollars,' 'Mirada (Gaze),' and 'The Binding of Itzik'

reel affirmations, films, lgbtq, reviews, gay, lesbian, comedy, drama

2 Dollars

For more information and reviews of every film screening at Reel Affirmations 27, check out our Complete Guide here!

Reel Affirmation’s Cultures of Queer program celebrates identities — be they hidden, unexplored, or erased by those who refuse to accept them. Kicking things off, Robin Cloud’s engaging short 2 Dollars (★★★★☆) centers on African-American nonbinary office-worker Syd (Gabrielle Maiden) trying to choose between their stifling job and bigoted coworkers, or giving it all up and pursuing their artistic passions. Whether it’s faux “woke” manager Veronica (a brilliantly cringeworthy Karissa Lee Staples) forcing Syd to bump fists while denying them a raise for being “too gay,” or office douche Carlos (Andrew Joseph Perez) ignoring their gender identity, everything comes to fruition when Syd learns the office lottery pool has won the jackpot, leading to an incredible performance from Maiden as Syd trashes the office in a glorious, all-too-relatable — and possibly premature — breakdown.

Things shift into a quieter gear for Mirada (Gaze) (★★☆☆☆), about a young child (Biera Thomas Rossello) exploring their gender identity. The child plays outdoors, dressed in stereotypically boyish fashion, before being called home by their abuela, where they put on a dress and head into the kitchen for a meal. Patricia Cruz’s film doesn’t say much over its three minutes, but imparts just enough to convey its message.

The Binding of Itzik

By contrast, Anika Benkov’s The Binding of Itzik (★★★★★) has a lot to say, much of it deeply funny, some of it quite emotional, as Hasidic bookbinder Itzik (Eli Rosen) comes across a Craigslist ad for “binding lessons for submissive women.” Curiosity piqued, he responds, keeping his identity a secret. What follows is a passionate, potent relationship with “MeatMaster500” — told entirely through their narrated emails to one another — that forces Itzik to confront a part of his sexual identity that remains repressed amidst his deeply conservative and religious lifestyle. And after a lot of virtual talking, Benkov and Rosen stick the landing with a closer that’s weighty, impactful, uncomfortable, and virtually silent.

The “Cultures of Queer” shorts program screens as part of this year’s Reel Affirmations Film Festival. For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets or festival screening passes, visit https://reelaffirmations.eventive.org.

La Gloria is also part of this program, but was not made available for screening.

Also Read: Check out our complete guide to Reel Affirmations 27 here, featuring reviews of every film!

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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