Metro Weekly

Reel Affirmations Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!

Washington, D.C.'s legendary LGBTQ film festival returns this weekend with great features, documentaries, and terrific shorts.

Reel Affirmations 30: Cover of Metro Weekly -- Image: Todd Franson
Reel Affirmations 30: Cover of Metro Weekly — Image: Todd Franson

Kimberley Bush has played some role with the Reel Affirmations LGBTQ Film Festival since 1996, whether as a volunteer, a programmer, serving on the board, or most recently, as the festival’s director. So she’s particularly gratified to be watching our community’s most culturally vital event turn 30 this weekend.

“We’ve shown that we have longevity,” says the Executive Director of the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center, who also oversees all of its arts and cultural programs. “We’ve shown that we are successful. We have shown that we’re impactful. And we really have thrived all these 30 years. I’m just proud that we’re still standing — prominently, powerfully, and here in the nation’s capital.”

This year’s Reel Affirmations features three days of live screenings, from Friday, Oct. 21 to Sunday, Oct. 22, at the centrally-located Eaton Hotel‘s intimate, state-of-the-art screening facility.

The festival will continue on Monday, Oct. 23, with six days of online access, including several of the films that played on the in-person days and a handful of others, including a veritable cavalcade of shorts.

One bonus at this year’s festival is what Reel Affirmations is calling “Retrospective Showings,” a selection of tremendous — and tremendously influential — LGBTQ films that played at past Reel Affirmations, including:

  • Beautiful Thing (Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.)
  • Chutney Popcorn (Oct. 20 at 9 p.m.)
  • Loev (Oct. 21 at 11 a.m.)
  • Sitcom (Oct. 22 at 11 a.m.)
  • Shortbus (Oct. 22 at 9 p.m.).

“I was looking for diversity,” says Jasmine Bryant, the festival’s interim deputy director, of the retrospective selections. “I wanted to make sure there was a representation of many, many people and cultures. Films that entertain, films that would also have name recognition, films that would be hard to find streaming anywhere.”

After a few bumpy years during the pandemic, in which the festival leaned heavily on its virtual component, Bush is thrilled to be welcoming back audiences. There will even be a party this year — “Reel Gleeful,” at the Eaton from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21.

“I’ve seen the film festival ebb and flow considerably,” says Bush. “But I feel like it’s important to connect in person. And I feel that those community connections really do allow people to emerge out of a dark place.

“We all know that this world is a shit show, dumpster fire, fuck sandwich for us politically, socially, all the way around,” she continues, adding that Reel Affirmations screenings provide “a safe, affirming space, even with the unaccepting and unloving world around us.”

She adds: “I have seen people walk out of our film screenings more confident, with more pride, more affirmation, more ability to use their voice and to be visible, and honestly, truly feeling less alone.”

We offer our traditional critical assessments of every new film — both in-person and online — in this year’s festival, in the Oct. 12 issue and also online, both individually and as an entire scroll.

Watch for the “CRITIC’S PICK” tags — they’re the films you absolutely do not want to miss.

Live screenings at Reel Affirmations are Oct. 20 to 22 at the Eaton Hotel, 1201 K St. NW, in Washington, D.C. The Reel Affirmations Virtual Film Festival is Oct. 23 to 29. Tickets are $15 per live screening or $10 per virtual film or shorts showcase screening. Admission to Saturday’s party is $25. Packages are available and range in price from $25 to $275.

For a full schedule of films, including retrospective showings, all pricing and pass options, and party information, visit

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