Metro Weekly

LGBTQ Film Reviews: Reel Affirmations’ “Curtains Up” Shorts Program

'2 Black Boys,' 'Cuban Heel Shoes,' 'Flux.1,' 'I Am Samantha,' 'In This Life,' 'Inferno,' and 'Lipstick and Leather'

reel affirmations, lgbtq, films, film festival, comedy, drama, gay, lesbian

2 Black Boys

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

Dance, comedy, singing, art, and drag queens daring to break the mold center this shorts program, which kicks off with 2 Black Boys (★★★☆☆), a black-and-white short celebrating the poetry of Giovanni Adams, which charts his black queer journey from boyhood to manhood. While the narrative and structure can be occasionally confusing and fleetingly amateur, Rachel Myers offers several gorgeous shots of her cast of dancers and actors set to narration of Adams’ work.

Cuban Heel Shoes

Sticking with dancing, Cuban Heel Shoes (★★★★☆) follows two LGBTQ teenage boys in a derelict Spanish suburb, sharply contrasting their deprived surroundings with their desires to become flamenco dancers. David Gaitán and Pedro Puente move beautifully through both their choreography and Julio Mas Alcaraz’s script and film, as they scrape together money for dancing shoes by running drugs for the local cartel and deal with family issues that threaten their dreams.

FLUX.1

Slightly overstaying its welcome but offering a lot of food for thought in the process, Christopher Green’s 37-minute Flux.1 (★★★☆☆) documents trans man T. Wise, a Hebrew teacher in Brooklyn who gave up his job to become a comedian one year after transitioning. While Green’s structure lends the film an overlong feel, there is a lot to love here, including Wise’s incredibly supportive rabbi father and insight into the comedy world from an LGBTQ perspective — the straight, male-dominated open mike nights are filled with a preponderance of incest and sexual assault jokes, but discussing a transition is viewed as radical. It’s followed by the truly wonderful I Am Samantha (★★★★☆), a music video from Benjamin Scheuer with an all-transgender cast telling the story of trans woman Samantha, and the power of claiming, expressing, and living your true identity. Trans director T Cooper’s video is simple, but the effect is thoroughly uplifting and affirming.

In This Life

Things get a little weird in the program’s next two shorts. In This Life (★★★☆☆) stars Broadway’s Robbie Fairchild as a man processing the five stages of grief through dance and performance art. Each stage in Bat-Sheva Guez’s film is choreographed by a different artist, and can frequently surprise and impress with its striking imagery. Not to mention some truly harrowing makeup and movement during the depression sequence. Also relying on striking and often unsettling imagery, the dark, sexy, brilliantly imaginative art of photographer Gui Taccetti is on full display in part-film, part-documentary Inferno (★★★★☆). Filmmaker Andrew Blackman presents the various sets and subjects for Taccetti’s Inferno series, each dripping in religious iconography and overtures to fetishism, and processing his feelings about growing up gay and Catholic in Brazil — as Taccetti notes in his narration: “My work is a way of constantly coming out.”

Lipstick and Leather

Things hit closer to home in the program’s final film, Amy Oden’s documentary Lipstick and Leather (★★★★☆), which charts iconic monthly alt-drag night GayBash DC as it launches a sister event in Baltimore. Founder Donna Slash, who recently relocated to Baltimore, stars alongside GayBash regulars Jane Saw and Ana Latour, as Oden captures their drag beginnings, the freedom of expression granted by GayBash’s embrace of alternative drag styles, and the runup to the launch of GayBash Baltimore. Technical issues with audio and framerate aside, Oden’s film takes on a more poignant note for D.C. locals with shots of Trade, GayBash’s home venue, filled with patrons and celebrating the queens giving it their all on stage. Trade may be open, but GayBash remains on hold — and Lipstick and Leather reminds why we can’t wait to have it back.

“Curtains Up” 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.

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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