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For more information and reviews of every film screening at Reel Affirmations 27, check out our Complete Guide here!
Kicking off this program, French filmmaker Josza Anjembe’s Freed (★★★★☆) follows Issa (Alassane Diong), a young gay man who is about to be released from jail when he meets Gaetan, a new arrival at their “open” prison where inmates are granted certain freedoms and independence. Diong delivers a quiet yet powerful performance as Issa, who struggles with the prison bully, his burgeoning feelings for Gaetan, and the knowledge that his mother won’t allow him to stay with her when he is released due to his sexuality. Anjembe offers an ambiguous but satisfying ending to Issa’s tale, as he commits a defiant final act before release.
Next we hop over the English channel — and back in time — for The Act (★★★★☆), a superb short about the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. Backdropped by narrated debate in Britain’s parliament about homosexuals and their proclivities, Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin’s film follows Mr. Matthews (Samuel Barnett), a young professional exploring London’s secret gay nightlife. His chance meeting with Jimmy (Simon Lennon), a working class laborer, leads to an affair. As politicians argue over whether gay people can truly love, Matthews develops feelings for Jimmy, who asserts “I ain’t like you” and rejects him — leading to a police sting in a restroom, professional repercussions, legal debate over homosexual identity, and a number of interactions with the scene-stealing Duchess (Cyril Nri), the grande dame of Matthews’ local bar.
The House of Mariana y Gabriel (★★★★☆) is a relatively quiet and simple film that deals with an extremely timely topic: deportation of illegal immigrants, and the impact on their family. The titular Mariana (Melissa Barrera) is forced to pack up the house she shares with brother Gabriel (Oscar Emmanuel Fabela) after their father is taken away by ICE. Gabriel, who unlike Mariana benefits from American citizenship, lusts after a straight boy and ignores their plight, leaving Mariana to hold together their fractured family and her fractured feelings over the loss of their religious conservative father. Hena Ashraf’s film doesn’t pontificate, but instead offers a restrained glimpse into the stress, hurt, and confusion facing families across America.
Ending on a lighter but no less timely note, Wedlocked (★★★☆☆) is a farcical satire about the lengths some gay couples had to go to in order to divorce prior to the Supreme Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage decision. Sydney (Shelli Boone) is faced with packing up her life in Texas and moving for six months to a state that recognizes same-sex marriage in order to divorce her ex-wife and marry fiancée Cameron (Whitney Mixter). But to do so, she also needs to bring her ex-wife, their new partner, the partner’s mother, the mother’s pig, the pig’s vet… and so on. It’s ludicrous, but also perfectly highlights the insanity of pre-Obergefell marriage laws. And what’s more, this 2015 film is even more relevant today, amid debates about Supreme Court justices signaling their intent to undo marriage equality and plunge us back into the days of Wedlocked.
“Law & Order” 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.
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