Reeling Film Fest returns with a different take on queer cinema

Chicago’s LGBT International Film Festival has new leaders, a new location and a different take on queer cinema

September 26, 2013

After three decades, Reeling: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival is making a few changes.

There’s the new name, which now includes bisexual and transgender in the title (though most still know the fest by its shorthand name, Reeling).

The fest also has a new location, at the Logan Theatre in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.

And there’s a new approach to what constitutes queer cinema, thanks to new programming director Richard Knight Jr. The lineup was announced Wednesday night.

“I wanted to bring some films into the festival that were not exclusively gay, gay gay,” said Knight. “... It’s certainly there. But it’s not like two guys meeting in a bar sort of thing.”

One of those films will close the fest. Ludwig II is about a 19th century Bavarian monarch. The film isn’t explicitly a work of queer cinema, but Knight saw it differently.

“When you see the movie, it’s gay. He’s in love with the horsemaster, he has erotic dreams, he kisses him,” said Knight. “It’s not very often that you see a $70 million epic around a gay figure.”  

As the longtime film critic for Chicago’s Windy City Times, Knight said he took the job at Reeling because he loves queer cinema and the thought of showing these films was “tantalizing.”

But getting audiences onboard hasn’t been as easy. In recent years the festival has struggled to find funding. Last year organizers took a break to assess the situation and, as it turns out, retool the festival.

Knight said he’s had had to learn in short order how to balance his artistic interests with commercial realities.

“It’s more of a consideration than I thought it would be,” said Knight. “I don’t know how (executive director) Brenda Webb has done this for 30 years.”

The 31st Reeling Film Festival opens Nov. 7.

Alison Cuddy is WBEZ’s Arts and Culture reporter and co-hosts the WBEZ podcasts Changing Channels and Strange Brews. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram