Still Reeling

Reeling 2006: The 25th Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival kicks off Thursday at the Music Box Theatre. The fest, which runs through Nov. 12, features more than 70 films and shorts representing 22 different countries and a variety of genres, from horror to romantic comedy.

When Festival Director Brenda Webb founded the event 25 years ago, few countries were making gay films. Most early fest selections came from Europe, and they were specifically about being gay--whereas more recent films explore a variety of topics.

This year's fest opens with Phillip J. Bartell's "Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds". We checked in with Bartell, a Chicago-area native, now in L.A.

Tell me about "Eating Out 2."

"Eating Out" was about a straight guy who pretends to be gay to get the girl. Since this is the sequel, I decided to make this about a gay guy who pretends to be straight to get with this guy who's not sure what he is. Since that idea of a gay guy pretending to be straight is a little reprehensible to me, considering the history of gays having to be in the closet and pretend, I decided to counter that by having the other guy who's vying for [the character] be openly gay and talk about all the fantastic things about being gay.

Seems like there are some serious issues in there. Will that surprise people?

We still deliver on what people who see that title and know what the first film is about will be expecting. We've still got the beefcake; we've still got the gay stuff; we've still got lots and lots of hot guys. I jumped into it thinking about other directors who were able to throw in little smart political asides ... It's kind of, "OK, how can how can we give the audience what they want and hopefully keep it interesting for us?" And hopefully, then, for the audience as well.

Matt Pais is the metromix music and movies producer.mpais@tribune.com

Can't-miss flicks

Not sure where to start? Festival Director Brenda Webb suggests these films:

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros: A flamboyant gay boy in Manila clings to his father and brothers after his mother dies. The film was the Philippines' official foreign language entry for the 2006 Academy Awards.

Red Doors: An Asian-American father tries to escape his difficult daughters by checking into a Buddhist monastery.

Three Needles: Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, Stockard Channing and Olympia Dukakis star in vignettes about the AIDS pandemic.

Whispering Moon: Two teenage film students and boyfriends go undercover in a circus to expose a political conspiracy in this imaginative drama.

Whole New Thing: A 13-year-old boy develops a crush on his male teacher in this Canadian coming-of-age story.

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