Reel Affirmations Film Festival
Gala Hispanic Theatre
3333 14th St., N.W.
Individual tickets are $12 (plus fees); passes start at $35.
It’s time for queer movie fans to rejoice — Reel Affirmations, D.C.’s celebration of international LGBT cinema, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. From Nov. 1-4, the festival will screen an amazing selection of full-length features and fabulous shorts at the Gala Hispanic Theatre on 14th Street.
Reel Affirmations is now a program of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and this year’s Festival will kick off with the Annual Reception for the D.C. Center, the signature fundraising for the Center, generating much-needed support for programs and services for the region’s LGBT community. The gala event, a celebration of the Festival’s milestone anniversary, will be held from 5-6:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1; more information on the Reception can be found at thedccenter.org/events/reception.
Thursday, Nov. 1
Following the reception, the Festival kicks off with two excellent international films.
Directed by Spanish filmmaker Carlos Marques-Marcet, “Anchor and Hope” opens with Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat (Natalia Tena) enjoying a simple and carefree life on a London canal boat. Things change when Eva’s mother (played by Chaplin’s own mother, the legendary actress Geraldine Chaplin) inspires Eva to offer Kat an ultimatum: she wants a child. Kat initially refuses, knowing this will end their bohemian lifestyle. When Kat’s best friend Roger (David Verdaguer) arrives from Barcelona, the three begin to explore the idea of creating a family together, but their differing expectations of intimacy and responsibility put a heavy strain on their relationship and threatens to rip the three apart. (In English and Spanish with English subtitles).
Dutch romantic comedy “Just Friends” is about two young men and their demanding mothers. When free-spirited Yad returns to his hometown after living on his own, he meets Joris, who is in mourning for his father. The two feel an instant attraction, but before their relationship can progress, they must first sort out their fraught relationships with their mothers. Directed by Annemarie van de Mond (under the name Ellen Smit), the movie is in Dutch with English subtitles.
Friday, Nov. 2
Friday night’s programming starts off with the Columbian film “Eva and Candela,” a bittersweet look at the final days of a relationship. Directed by Ruth Caudali, the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.
Friday’s second movie, “Tales of the Lost Boys” is about the unexpected friendship that develops out of a random meeting. Alex is a Filipino mechanic who flees to Taiwan when he discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant. Jerry is a Taiwanese aborigine student who fears that his parents will reject him for being gay. The unlikely pair go on an impromptu road trip to Yilan, Jerry’s hometown, with unexpected results. (In English, Mandarin and Tagalog with English subtitles.)
Saturday, Nov. 3
Saturday at the Festival includes a full day of exciting and diverse films. The full-length features are “Mr. Gay Syria,” about two gay Syrian refugees trying to rebuild their lives in Berlin and “Trans Youth,” a documentary that follows the lives of seven trans young adults in Austin, Texas, over the course of three years.
The day will also include three sets of short films: “We Are Family: Family Shorts,” “Fun in Women’s Shorts” and the late-night “Fun in Boys Shorts: The Art of the Hookup.” The last showcase includes the Brazilian short film “The Daytime Doorman,” an award-winning erotic dramedy about what happens with Marcelo decides to expand his relationship with Márcio, his building’s doorman.
Screening on Saturday afternoon, the centerpiece of the year’s Reel Affirmation Film Festival and one of the hottest films on this year’s LGBT film festival circuit is “1985” by queer director Yen Tan (“Pit Stop,” “Ciao” and “Happy Birthday”). Shot on black-and-white super 16mm film, “1985” is a visually stunning and deeply moving movie about a dysfunctional family that is forced to discuss deeply buried family secrets in the light of the AIDS crisis.
Adrian (Cory Michael Smith of TV’s “Gotham” and the films “Carol,” “Wonderstruck” and “First Man”), is a closeted advertising executive living in New York City during the first wave of the AIDS pandemic. For the first time in three years, he returns to his Texas hometown for the holidays to reconnect with his preteen brother (Aidan Langford) and his former girlfriend Carly (Jaime Chung) and to confront his religious parents Eileen and Dale (Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis).
“1985” is based on the award-winning 2016 short of the same name where Adrian (Robert Sella) consults a beautician (Lindsay Pulsipher) to hide his AIDS symptoms.
Sunday, Nov. 4
Sunday at the Reel Affirmations Film Festival starts out with brunch-themed cocktails and a screening of “No Chocolate, No Rice,” a movie about two friends (one black, one Asian) navigating the racial “preferences” of men on gay dating apps.
On Sunday afternoon, Reel Affirmations will screen a new television special “DC Black Pride — Answering the Call.”
The program got its starts 18 months ago when Marvin Bowser, the gay brother of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, ran into a problem when he was working on an article about the relevance of D.C. Black Pride today. “I realized,” he says, “that the history of D.C. Black Pride is poorly documented and poorly remembered. I decided that I needed to do something about this situation while some of the leaders are still alive to tell their stories.”
Bowser pitched the idea to the District of Columbia Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment, which quickly came on board. He then interviewed the leaders who created D.C. Black Pride as well as today’s leaders in D.C.’s Black LGBT community. He and director Brenda Mallory wanted to discover if the issues that existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s are still issues and to discuss the future.
Bowser will lead a Talk Back session immediately after the screening.
Following a session of “Gender Non-Conforming/Self-Labeling Shorts,” the Festival closes on Sunday evening with “Mapplethorpe,” Ondi Timoner’s biopic about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The film chronicles his turbulent professional and personal life from his rise to fame in the 1970s to his untimely death from AIDS in 1989. English actor Matt Smith (the 11th Doctor on “Doctor Who,” “The Crown” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) plays the provocative artist.
Marianne Rendón plays Mapplethorpe’s girlfriend singer-songwriter Patti Smith; out actor Jon Benjamin Hickey is Mapplethorpe’s lover and patron Sam Wagstaff; and, McKinley Belcher III plays Milton Moore, Mapplethorpe’s well-endowed muse and lover who was the subject of the infamous portrait “Man in Polyester Suit.”
More information on schedules, passes and individual tickets can be found at thedccenter.org/reelaffirmations.