Roughly two decades ago, Reel Affirmations presented an annual mini-festival of films to help kick-off Capital Pride. This year, Kimberley Bush, who served as the volunteer co-director of the festival during that earlier era, decided to revive the concept.
“We survived an unprecedented pandemic and 14 months of isolation and extraordinary challenges,” Bush says. “So I wanted to celebrate Pride and our LGBTQ creatives by uplifting their experiences, their cinematic masterpieces, their visions and life stories.”
The interim executive director of the DC Center for the LGBT Community since 2019, Bush also oversees Reel Affirmations. “We’ve had hundreds of submissions for the fall film festival,” Bush says, explaining that timing was another impetus for this year’s Pride series, featuring seven titles in all. None have previously screened at either Reel Affirmations or its monthly series RA Xtra, nor are any of them expected to be programmed this fall, but a few will be released theatrically in August.
An all-virtual slate, the 2021 DC Pride Film Fest falls at the end of a full month of Pride. “I thought it would make sense to screen them at the end of the month, when people are exhausted and it’s hot and they want to be inside with air-conditioning,” she says. “Watching some amazing films might be a good idea to round out their Pride celebrations.”
Bush’s goal in putting together the festival is “always to make sure that there’s representation for everyone. No matter how you identify, there’ll be a film for you to enjoy and to grow from. All the films will evoke a sense of strength and pride and resilience and happiness, and the majority of them are uplifting and provocative.”
The DC Pride Film Fest lineup includes:
Sheer Qorma — Bush describes this “endearing” 30-minute short from India, revolving around three resilient, queer Muslim women, as a film about “a single mom grappling still years later with her daughter and her daughter’s partner, now wife, [and] her spiritual beliefs and acceptance. It shows you that love is extraordinary and powerful and that people can change.”
Ma Belle, Ma Beauty — Bush calls Marion Hill’s French drama “extraordinary.” “You don’t see a lot of films about polyamory, and this is a very adult and intricate and honest adventure around and into the polyamory life [that’s] beautifully shot, very sexy, very brave.”
Saint Narcisse — The latest from eccentric queercore filmmaker Bruce LaBruce is also his grandest, according to the Canadian director, citing this twisted twincest comedy fantasy as “my biggest budgeted and most ambitious movie to date, with spectacular locations, elevated cinematography and art direction.” Set in 1972, the film follows a self-involved young man on the hunt for the identical twin brother he only recently learned existed.
Shit & Champagne — Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 is featured in this film, adapted from a hit stage show by San Francisco’s multi-hyphenate drag doyenne D’Arcy Drollinger. Taking John Waters’ campy absurdist sensibility to the next level, our heroine is a déclassée exotic dancer named Champagne who, to quote the official description, “single-handedly [takes] on the largest sex, drug, and back-to-school clothing ring in the country, Mal-Wart, using an arsenal of disguises, a plethora of kung-fu moves, and a cornucopia of one-liners.”
Boy Meets Boy — Spanish director Daniel Sánchez López produces a disarmingly tender debut that has been called “a distinctly modern queer love story,” albeit one strongly reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. López’s tale centers on a fleeting relationship that sparks from the dance floor of an all-night club in Berlin and lingers far longer than either of the two young men in question quite know what to do about.
Swan Song — Todd Stephens returns to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, in this homage to a real-life man with a larger-than-life personality who served as a gay role model for the Edge of Seventeen and Gypsy 83 filmmaker. Udo Kier stars as a retired hairdresser and drag queen by night who counts Jennifer Coolidge as his former protégé and Dynasty‘s Linda Evans as a former client, one whose dying request for a makeover sets the tender comedy in motion.
See You Then — Kris invites Naomi over for dinner a decade after abruptly breaking up with her in this first narrative feature from Mari Walker. In an essay posted to Medium, Walker describes the drama as being an exchange between “a cisgender Asian-American woman [and] a transgender Iranian woman…and focuses on issues that have deeply affected me since first transitioning…. In art, like in life, you can only find your voice after finding yourself.”
All seven films will be available for streaming from midnight on Friday, June 25, to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 27. Tickets are $10 per film, or $60 for a full pass. Visit www.thedccenter.org.
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