At 10 years, Reel Affirmations has grown up fast from the tiny festival it once was. It’s now among the largest gay and lesbian film festivals in the country, as well as one of the biggest of the many D.C. film festivals that offer temporary respite from Hollywood’s increasingly malodorous fare. Still, a few things hold true year after year: The documentaries are fascinating, the foreign films are impressive, and the movies that look from a distance as if they’re formulaic sitcoms probably are. At least that’s what Joel Siegel, Bob Mondello, and I found among the 20-some films we previewed. Including short subjects, however, there are more than 100 others to discover.

The opening-night attraction, The Broken Hearts Club, opens commercially the day after its Reel debut, and the closing-night movie, Chutney Popcorn, is pleasant but slight. In between, however, are such memorable documentaries as Paragraph 175, The Jaundiced Eye, and Live Nude Girls Unite!, and striking recent fiction films from Peru (Don’t Tell Anyone), Hong Kong (Bishonen), and Canada (Set Me Free), as well as a ’60s Japanese cult classic, Manji. Another blast from the past is Beautiful Thing, the 1996 festival sensation, whereas Queer as Folk II is the much-anticipated sequel to the exuberantly entertaining Brit-TV series about gay life in Manchester. There’s far too much to see in the fest’s 11 days, but it’s worth the effort. Few of these films will be seen here again—unless they’re such crowd pleasers that Reel Affirmations XI, XII, or XIII brings them back for a reprise. —Mark Jenkins

Tickets to shows are $8 unless otherwise noted. To order advance tickets, call (800)494-TIXS.

Fax: (800)FAX-TIXS; TDD: (877)TDD-TIXS.

12

Thursday

Screening tonight: The Broken Hearts Club (7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, $10).

13

Friday

SEX MONSTER

Writer-director-actor Mike Binder’s witless soft-core sex farce might pass muster as middle-of-the-night Cinemax filler but hardly merits film-festival showcasing. Generously awarding himself the leading male role in his one-joke screenplay, Binder plays Marty, a Los Angeles real estate developer who talks his reluctant hairdresser wife, Laura (Mariel Hemingway), into a threesome with another woman. Marty’s sexual fantasy is fulfilled when the couple ends up in bed with one of Laura’s co-workers. Rapaciously awakened to the pleasures of lesbianism, Laura proceeds to seduce Marty’s office assistant, his sister, and a business associate’s wife. Weaselly Binder is a cut-rate Woody Allen, portraying Marty as a sputtering bundle of insufferable insecurities. Hemingway’s big-boned sweetness helps her survive an implausible, often demeaning role. B-movie albatross Stephen Baldwin makes an unwelcome guest appearance, looking like a seafowl grounded by an oil slick. Think twice before subjecting yourself to this sexless, monstrous misfire. —Joel E. Siegel

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

GET YOUR STUFF

Writer-director Max Mitchell’s clumsily titled movie begins as a gay parenting sitcom with toned abs. A Beverly Hills couple, family therapist Phil (Cameron Watson) and lawyer Eric (Anthony Meindl), apply to adopt a baby. While waiting for action on their request, they agree to offer emergency housing, for just one night, to two streetwise brothers—roughneck 12-year-old T.J. (Grady Hutt) and gentle Brian (Blayn Barbosa). One night leads to many more, until their alcoholic hooker mom, Cat (Elaine Hendrix), turns up to reclaim her kids. The disruptive presence of this trio strains Phil and Eric’s relationship to the breaking point, but conflicts are smoothly sorted out in time for a predictably uplifting denouement. Mitchell’s good-looking but stiff cast muddles through the comic sequences but lacks the skill to transcend the mawkish closing scenes, filled with over-explicit dialogue that socks across the film’s themes with sledgehammer force. A warmhearted but heavy-handed endorsement of gay family values, Get Your Stuff crumbles under the weight of its didactic good intentions. —Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

GYPSY BOYS

The opening scenes of writer-director Brian Shepp’s gay dating comedy are woefully misbegotten. In a prologue, three friends fantasize about sipping champagne from a muscular man’s nude body. (The faltering actors appear to be reading their lines from cue cards.) There follows an overextended, clumsily edited bar sequence introducing a dozen characters and recycling nearly every gay cliché in human memory. After this endurance test, Gypsy Boys becomes slightly more coherent. Shepp juggles two unrequited love plots. Artist Steve (Adam Gavzer) hankers for a committed relationship with handsome Blair (Jud Parker), who can’t get past his obsession with ego-boosting one-night-stands. Manny (Alberto Rosas), a sensitive Cuban, has a crush on bald, tattooed Aaron (Zeke Wheeler), who is determined to settle down with his patronizing, perfidious English boyfriend, Noel (Andrew Ableson). If the dialogue these self-pitying drama queens spout were transposed to a straight dating movie, the result would be hooted off the screen. Nevertheless, the unpolished performers deliver this drivel with a raw naiveté that makes their efforts seem more authentic than those of the cast members of Reel Affirmations’ glossy, up-market opening-night attraction, The Broken Hearts Club. A sprinkling of comic interludes, notably a porno video shoot in which everything goes awry, provides a welcome relief from the disco angst. —Joel E. Siegel

At 11 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

14

Saturday

PUNKS

Marcus is a terminally shy African-American fashion photographer who tends to hide behind his camera whenever romance rears its not-so-ugly head. As the central character in Punks, he’s told often and loudly to loosen up by the HIV-positive buddy with whom he shares his house , as well as by their two best friends—a poor little rich Latino and a flamboyant black drag queen who claims to be dating a mystery celebrity they’re all starting to suspect is just a figment of her imagination. Marcus enjoys their company enough that it doesn’t particularly occur to him that he’s missing anything by shrinking from intimacy with, say, the striking male models he spends his days photographing. But when a hunky guy moves in right next door, the photographer quickly develops a yen for something a little more, er, focused. The hunk is definitely homosocial, but because he has a very visible—and evidently satisfied—girlfriend, Marcus’ friends suggest looking elsewhere for romance. Trouble is, those same friends tend to be everywhere else he looks, either horning in on his choices or dissing them so roundly they no longer seem valid. So who does Marcus end up turning to for romantic advice? Why, the hunk, of course. Punks is more remarkable for its un-self-conscious take on friendships between and among gay African-Americans and Latinos than for its polish or storytelling prowess. Writer-director Patrik-Ian Polk never met a genre (or gender) cliché he didn’t think he could overheat into submission, but he also proves capable of breathing fresh life into a few of them along the way. Performances are reasonably capable, and the tone is so upbeat it seems almost churlish to ask for a substantial conflict or a resolution that isn’t totally pat. —Bob Mondello

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 14: Speaking for Ourselves (11 a.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); Could Be Worse (3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); Soft Hearts (5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); Kali’s Vibe (7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); and Piccadilly Pickups (11 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre).

15

Sunday

PARADISE BENT

SISSY

Among the many beautiful isles that dot the vast Pacific Ocean, coos the narrator of the 1960s travelogue that director Heather Croall uses to get Paradise Bent under way, the Samoan group is one of the few that has remained relatively unchanged in spite of modern civilization. From early childhood, the natives lead an idyllic and carefree life with few, if any, restrictions. Thirty years later, the director discovered a more complex reality when she arrived to document the lives of the fa’afafine men who, from a very early age, live their lives as women in a society that doesn’t seem to regard gender-bending as a transgression. Accepted by parents who welcome having a little extra help around the house and viewed as celebrities in the urban clubs where they don fabulous plumage and prance through dance routines, nearly all of the onscreen fa’afafine self-identify as women. And few of the folks with whom they interact seem inclined to disagree. Except for a pastor’s wife, who says she “strongly opposes” their lifestyle choice, and the Australian government, which disciplines an employee for sharing his living quarters with a sweetly seductive and justifiably celebrated fa’afafine entertainer named Cindy, Samoan society appears to take a refreshingly offhand, “boys will be girls” attitude toward the whole phenomenon. In just under an hour, Paradise Bent preserves several of Cindy’s sparkliest numbers, weaves a web of nicely resolved suspense over her romance with the Australian bureaucrat, and introduces a number of

other personalities, including a fading but still vibrant fa’afafine siren named Tanya, who says she taught Marlon Brando Tahitian dance steps when he was filming on the island and she was just a girl. Filling out the program is Sissy, a brief, fussily overdirected documentary peek at a flamboyant group of aboriginal Australians who are in the midst of making preparations for Sydney’s annual Gay Pride Parade.—Bob Mondello

At 11 a.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

BISHONEN

Although best known for action flicks, Hong Kong also produces many sentimental melodramas. The only thing that’s different about this one is that the principal characters—a cop, a pop star, two male hustlers, and the cop’s female friend—are all gay. Director Yonfan was inspired by an actual Hong Kong scandal: A beefcake photographer was found to have thousands of shots of local policemen in and out of uniform. A fictionalized version of that photographer is one of the older gay men in this tale, but the central figures are Sam, a young cop who can’t quite accept he’s gay, and Jet, a glamorous call boy. The film’s title translates as “beauty,” and that doesn’t refer only to the sleek cast; the vivid, neon-hued color scheme is also striking. As the various narrative strands come together, however, the contrived plot becomes less and less interesting, and the music is even sappier than the tragic-love sentiment.—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

BEST OF THE FEST

Reel Affirmations’ selection committee has compiled this program from what it regards as the finest short films submitted to this year’s festival. In Samantha Bakhurst and Lea Morement’s caustic British comedy, 4pm, a free-spirited lesbian finds herself locked in the apartment of her previous night’s trick and, while waiting to be freed, makes some startling discoveries about the owner’s identity. Con O’Neill’s somber Brotherly Love examines the troubled relationship of two English brothers who, reunited at their father’s funeral, exchange some dark family secrets. In Phillip J. Bartell’s bubbly Crush, 12-year-old Tina, played by the delightfully precocious Ema A. Tuennerman, discovers that 16-year-old Robbie, the object of her affection, is gay. Overcoming this disappointment, she selflessly decides to help him snag a boyfriend. Ten-year-old Caroline, the protagonist of French filmmaker Pierre Pinaud’s charming Early Frost, has to deal with a similar revelation: her beloved pet rabbit turns out to be indifferent to the charms of girl bunnies. Retreating from her censorious, hatchet-faced parents, she seeks comfort from her gay next-door neighbors. From Norway, Frank Mosvold’s Home for Christmas is a brief, frothy lesbian coming-out fantasy. The program’s two remaining selections fall flat. Kim Cummings’ amateurishly acted and directed Weeki Wachee Girls deals with 15-year-old Katie’s reaction to finding out that her best friend has a female lover, and Dustin Woehrmann and Tom Whitman’s animated Rape of Ganymede recasts Greek mythology as a series of wheezy fag gags.—Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 15: For the Love of Rock (1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); That’s a Family! (3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); “Works in Progress” (4 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, free); and Burlesk King (5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre).

16

Monday

MY FIRST TIME: BOY SHORTS

Portraying adolescent angst in five flavors, all of them essentially vanilla, this quintuple helping of coming-out rituals, traumas, and cheap thrills is only a tad less gooey than it sounds. Basically, a gaggle or so of 16-year-old boys of various persuasions—timid, boisterous, eager, jaded, frustrated, and even straight—do their damnedest to lose their virginity. In the pensively attenuated Boy, by D.C.’s Josh Kletzkin, two best friends visit a female prostitute whom only one of them is actually interested in—a fact that has a notable, if ambiguous, effect on their friendship. Rockwell concerns a previously straight farm boy who can’t take his eyes off a fellow footballer once the guy self-identifies as gay—which affects their friendship. And a couple of Boy Scouts discover that rubbing sticks together isn’t the only way to generate a little heat when they wind up in the same tent one night in Campfire (Kampvuur)—which pretty much ends their friendship. Not one of them seems particularly happy about the results of sexual experimentation. More upbeat is Doors Cut Down, in which a fetchingly precocious Spanish teenager so defiantly seduces every male who glances his way at the local mall that the authorities feel obligated to take action. Despairing of stopping him by other means, they take all the doors off the restroom stalls (hence the title), but that barely slows the kid down. Also high-spirited, albeit in a more conventional way, is Crush, about a 12-year-old girl who falls hard for a 16-year-old visitor to her town, then discovers he’s gay, and figures that if she can’t have him for herself, she might as well play matchmaker. Truth-or-dare and drinking games ensue, with the adolescent siren playing hostess to her former beloved and a cutie she lures from across town after watching him play in the park. It’s all very sweet, and it ends a decidedly uneven evening on a positive note.

—Bob Mondello

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 16: Little Secret with Opening Closet X: A Voice for Queer Youth (6 p.m. at the JCC Theater, free); The Journey of Jared Price (7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); Trois (7:15 p.m. at the JCC Theater) and “Women on the Verge 2000: Women’s Shorts” (9:15 p.m. at the JCC Theater).

17

Tuesday

APOSTLES OF CIVILISED VICE

South Africa is the only nation whose constitution protects the rights of gays and lesbians, but that’s a very recent development. This documentary recounts some of the incidents that led to the 1998 overturning of the country’s sodomy law, beginning with the case of a (straight) 19th-century woman who passed as a man so she could pursue a career as a doctor. Alas, most of the episodes are presented as re-enactments, almost always a clumsy element in documentaries. Still, the stories are interesting, and address not only legal issues but cultural and psychological ones as well.—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the JCC Theater.

Also screening Oct. 17: “Dykes in Distress! Shorts” (5 p.m. at the JCC Theater, free); “Sex & the Single Male: Boys Shorts” (7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); Manji (9 p.m. at the JCC Theater); Return to Go! (9:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre)

18

Wednesday

RED DIRT

You can feel your toenails grow while waiting for Tag Purvis’s lumbering Southern gothic melodrama to end. In a screenplay filched from the collected works of Chekhov, Williams, and Inge, Purvis focuses on the insular inhabitants of Pine Apple, Miss., who spend most of their time dreaming of ways to escape from their picturesque but stifling environment. Orphaned 19-year-old Griffith (Dan Montgomery) looks after his batty Aunt Summer (Karen Black) while incestuously diddling his Titian-haired cousin Emily (Aleksa Palladino). The unexpected arrival of Lee (Walt Groggins), a handsome drifter, shakes up their sleepy existence, triggering the disinterment of long-buried family secrets and awakening hitherto suppressed desires. Frizzy-tressed Black, looking like Cleo Laine’s twin sister, gives a corn-pone, unwittingly camp performance that would disgrace a whistle-stop high-school production of A Streetcar Named Desire, while the rest of the actors struggle with, and intermittently abandon, their Southern accents. Purvis’ strained attempts to write poetic dialogue result in unintentional howlers such as, “It always feels like the Great Depression around here” and “I’m here, here on this earth, standing quiet.” Ted Cohen’s luminous camerawork and Nathan Barr’s delicate chamber-music score are squandered on this turgid, derivative muddle. Carol Burnett, where are you when we need you?—Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

LIVE NUDE GIRLS UNITE!

Some San Francisco peep-show dancers decide to unionize in this documentary, in which co-director Julia Query had quite a stake: She was one of the dancers. She’s also a lesbian stand-up comic who draws on her sex-worker career for material, as well as—yes, there’s more—the daughter of an expert on prostitutes’ health issues who doesn’t know her child dances naked at the Lusty Lady (and isn’t happy when she finds out). Working at the club is “like a weird pajama party” or offering “a sexual spiritual service,” depending on which dancer is describing the job. Of course, some of the issues the organizers confront are routine: The dancers want sick leave, job security, and a union shop. Still, not many workers could declare “no pink day” as a job action. Query and co-director Vicky Funari occasionally turn to crude animation to illustrate their point, but the film’s principal assets are live, if not always nude: the smart, articulate, and realistic workers at the Lusty Lady—and elsewhere, as the idea of unionizing strip clubs travels across the country. —Mark Jenkins

At 9 p.m. at the JCC Theater.

Also screening Oct. 18: “Unmapping Desire: Women’s Shorts” (6 p.m. at the JCC Theater, free); Journey to a Hate Free Millennium (7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); and Johnny Greyeyes (7:15 p.m. at the JCC Theater).

19

Thursday

EAST OF A

Director Amy Goldstein conflates Rent and Jules and Jim in this intriguing comedy-drama covering a decade in the lives of three unconventional 20-somethings who take a 10-year lease on a loft in Manhattan’s East Village. Chart (Scott Kraft), a cokehead trust-funder, nearly hits bottom before taking control of his life. Ex-seminarian Peter (Patrick Breen) searches for a sense of direction and a lasting relationship. Cabaret-singer hopeful Reggie (Nadine Van der Velde) refuses to abandon her showbiz dreams despite endless disappointments. Kraft, Breen, and Van der Velde collaborated on the screenplay, fashioning multidimensional roles for themselves, and a strong supporting ensemble including Adam Arkin, David Alan Grier, Camryn Manheim, Melanie Mayron, and Mary McCormack. Focusing on one day in each year that the trio live together, East of A obliquely chronicles the social and cultural changes between 1985 and 1995, reinforced by a knockout score featuring recordings by Etta James, Wang Chung, Tom Waits, Talking Heads, and a host of others. Goldstein’s resourceful wide-screen compositions dispel the sense of claustrophobia that one usually experiences while watching a film whose action is confined to a single interior space. Although a sentimental Thanksgiving celebration ends the film on a mawkish note, East of A is one of the rare indie features that makes the most of its independence. —Joel E. Siegel

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

PARAGRAPH 175

With the help of some of the handful of survivors left to tell their stories, this film surveys the Nazi oppression of gays under a law the party brutally enforced but didn’t write. Germany’s Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality, was instituted in 1871 and not repealed until 1968 (in East Germany) and 1969 (on the other side of the Wall). Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet) and researcher-interviewer Klaus Müller (who works at Washington’s Holocaust Museum) concentrate on the personal tales of the few men (and one woman) who agreed to testify, but they also paint the backdrop: Weimar Berlin was “a homosexual Eden,” narrator Rupert Everett notes, and, at first, Hitler explicitly rejected homophobic criticism of Ernst Röhm, the gay man who organized the SA stormtroopers—until 1934’s “Night of the Long Knives,” when Röhm and many others were purged. The Nazis arrested an estimated 100,000 gay men—lesbianism was considered less threatening—and although most were not sent to the gas chambers, they were tortured, subjected to “medical experiments,” and interned in camps where death from disease, starvation, and exhaustion was common. Gad Beck, one of the survivors interviewed in the film, will attend the screening to discuss his experiences.—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 19: “Coming to Terms: Mixed Shorts” (6 p.m. at the JCC Theater, free); “Chicks With Guns: Women’s Shorts” (7 p.m. at the JCC Theater); “Besame Mucho: Latin Boys Shorts” (9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); and Muriel’s Parents Have Had It Up to Here (9 p.m. at the JCC Theater).

20

Friday

ROLLERCOASTER

In its opening scenes, Canadian writer-director Scott Smith’s debut feature threatens to be yet another wallow in alienated adolescent malaise. Five disaffected teenagers—four boys and a girl—steal a car from their group home counselor and break into Wonder World, an abandoned amusement park. Two disillusioned lovers—brooding Darrin (Kett Turton) and vulnerable Chloe (Crystal Buble)—intend to leap from the top of a roller coaster at the day’s end. Employing a rough-hewn, semidocumentary style, Smith weaves the sounds, shapes, and textures of the park into an expressionist setting that mirrors the kids’ shifting emotions during the course of their outing. In an unsettling subplot, Stick (Brendan Fletcher), Darrin’s best friend, experiences a restroom sexual encounter with the park’s pedophilic security guard (David Lovgren). Rollercoaster builds to a dizzying crescendo as the teens commandeer the park’s rides, then settles into a bittersweet climax as night falls. Despite its deliberate pacing and harrowing moods, Smith’s film is an impressive debut, an uncompromising and strikingly cinematic work of art. —Joel E. Siegel

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

MERCY

Drawing on Tightrope, Basic Instinct, and Seven, writer-director Damian Harris (son of actor Richard) has created a stylish but repellent thriller. Ellen Barkin stars as Catherine Palmer, a policewoman in pursuit of a serial killer who preys on bisexual women, coating their faces with grotesque makeup and ravaging their corpses with bloody, vampirish bites. Her investigation plunges her into a lesbian sadomasochist underground, guided by seductive Vickie Kittrie (Peta Wilson), whose yen for Catherine isn’t entirely unwelcome. Based on David L. Lindsey’s novel and set in Texas (though obviously shot in Canada), Mercy features elegantly austere production designs and luminous cinematography. Barkin, with her expressive lopsided mouth and sleek all-black wardrobe, proves to be a spunky heroine, cursing like a dockworker and blowing away malefactors as coolly as Clint Eastwood, and Wilson generates considerable heat as a sexually voracious mystery woman. But Harris’ exploitation-picture emphasis on gratuitous nudity, graphic carnage, and relentless profanity cynically undercuts the screenplay’s professed concern for violated women. Julian Sands has a creepy turn as a kinky psychiatrist. (Given a chance to live my life over again, I’d request to be spared the sight of Sands in red-sequined drag.) Ubiquitous millstone Stephen Baldwin appears briefly as a mechanic Catherine picks up in a bar, thereby assuring that Mercy will never receive a theatrical release. —Joel E. Siegel

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

THE NIGHT LARRY KRAMER

KISSED ME

A lucky subsegment of the D.C. theater audience got to catch David Drake’s bracing one-man autobioplay, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, a few seasons ago at the Church Street Theatre. In that incarnation of a freewheeling show that leaps from childhood whimsy to backroom sex play with many a backward glance, Wally Acton (who’ll soon be back in town as Richard II at the Shakespeare Theatre) played Drake. Tim Kirkman’s film adaptation offers a chance to see Drake himself in a role he was quite literally born to play, and durned if he isn’t pretty good at it. The script, which introduces the author on his 16th birthday as he’s about to get caught by his parents in his first boy-boy kiss, is a series of sharply observed scenes captured in a kind of breathless overdrive. Wide-eyed and innocent at first, Drake impersonates not just himself at various ages, but also the folks who’ve influenced him, from mentors to tormentors. He brings a raft of voices and postures to the task, as well as a series of attention-grabbing theatrical tricks. Syllables get repeated until they seem mantras, phrases come back (and back and back) to haunt, and snapshot images—of rough trade, sweet youths, and, of course, the author—capture the imagination. Yes, it’s stagy. Kirkman knows he can’t overcome that, so he embraces it, turning the camera into a sort of backstage voyeur that swoops around, above, and behind Drake as the actor careens around a largely open space in front of a live audience. But mostly, the strengths of the movie are the strengths of the play: its politically evocative script—at one point, Drake envisions a future in which he tells his adopted child about life before the Smithsonian added its “Queer Culture Wing”—and the opportunities it gives a gifted performer.

—Bob Mondello

At 7 p.m. at the JCC Theater.

SET ME FREE

As artful as it is candidly self-revelatory, Léa Pool’s semiautobiographical film is set in Montreal in the early ’60s, a period that nearly always denotes coming-of-age drama. Thirteen-year-old Hanna (Karine Vanasse) is the sensitive, confused daughter of a domineering unemployed poet (Miki Manojlovic, also seen in Criminal Lovers), a Jewish refugee haunted by his European experience. Hanna is fiercely attached to her long-suffering mother, a Catholic who supports the family as a seamstress; flustered by her new sexuality, Hanna also develops powerful crushes on several other women. She worships her teacher, experiments with kissing her new friend Laura, and is a regular at the cinema showing Godard’s My Life to Live, whose Anna Karina becomes the girl’s inspiration. Given the familiar terrain, this is remarkably fresh, and the intercutting of material from the Godard film creates a vibrant visual dialogue between Hanna and her model. —Mark Jenkins

At 9 p.m. at the JCC Theater.

URBANIA

A moody psychological thriller about a New York professional who spends long, dangerous nights cruising the streets for a very particular brand of macho companionship, Urbania marks a striking directorial debut for John Shear. The film’s episodic structure is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, but its impact is stronger, far sexier, and measurably more disturbing. Charlie (Dan Futterman) is the sort of attractive, personable, caring guy who would actively seek out a depressed friend (Alan Cumming) whose whole life has become a pity party. Not only that, but despite constant rebuffs, Charlie offers money, food, and conversation each time he passes a homeless guy who camps out on his building’s doorstep. Basically, he’s just plain nice. But there are signs of trouble as well. He also makes it a point to publicly humiliate an upstairs neighbor and destroy the guy’s love life just out of pique, and he threatens a pretty-boy actor who has the temerity to be attracted to him. Something’s not quite right, and that something comes to the fore as Charlie spends night after night trying to hook up with a tattooed, leather-jacketed stud who hangs around queer bars sneering at all comers. One night, the guy appears at his side in a bar, and after a few drinks, a classic—and increasingly unnerving—game of cat-and-mouse gets under way. Futterman is terrific, looking and even sounding a bit like a young David Janssen. His measured, even approach to a character who is hellbent on doing something he knows he’ll regret anchors the film when its carefully ambiguous storyline veers abruptly toward specificity in a mostly harrowing final reel. Urbania, which has won a series of festival prizes and is evidently doing well in a just-opened commercial run in New York, isn’t just an effective thriller; it’s one of the few gay-fest films in recent years that you sense might have a shot at crossing over to mainstream success.—Bob Mondello

At 9:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 20: Beautiful Thing (1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); No One Sleeps (5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); A Boy Named Sue (5 p.m. at the JCC Theater, free); Hard Love (11 p.m. at the JCC Theater); and Sex Becomes Her: Chi Chi Larue (11:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre).

21

Saturday

THE JAUNDICED EYE

It wouldn’t be Reel Affirmations without one documentary about a disturbing miscarriage of justice somewhere in small-town America. Nonny de la Peña’s film is this year’s entry, and it’s a low-key horror. Both Stephen Mathews, a young gay man, and his father Melvin went to prison in Michigan for sexually abusing Stephen’s five-year-old son, and spent 10 years battling before a retrial led to the charges being dropped. It should be astonishing that the case proceeded, let alone that the men were convicted, without any physical evidence except a false-positive test for a sexually transmitted disease. But in fact it’s not unusual for such cases to be tried, based only on the preposterous testimony that small children invent in response to leading questions from incompetent child psychologists and social workers. Interviews with the child’s mother and new stepfather suggest that the case was rooted in their hostility and homophobia—and possibly to cover up the physical abuse of mom’s new man. This is a crisp account of the case, which was resolved legally, if not emotionally. It does include, however, a little too much aimless local color, and the arty shots used to accompany the audio testimony of the alleged crimes are a bit annoying.—Mark Jenkins

At 3 p.m. at the JCC Theater.

DON’T TELL ANYONE

Sensitive rich kid Joaquin starts out sympathetic, trying to understand his gayness in Peru’s macho culture, while his bullying father takes him hunting and then to a brothel to make him a “real man.” After Joaquin goes to college, however, he becomes increasingly dislikable. Although he prefers cocaine to studying, he toys with the emotions of a female pal, destroys his bisexual lover’s relationship with his girlfriend, and leaves a coked-up cohort for dead after he seemingly has a heart attack. Adapted from a novel by Peruvian author Jaime Bayly, Francisco J. Lombardi’s film deserves credit for making Joaquin both victim and victimizer; although the protagonist can occasionally become tiresome, the story is never one-dimensional. The problem, most likely, is that cinema is less able than the novel to depict interior life; rather than being complex, Joaquin just seems capricious. And the film’s ending, though properly ambiguous, is unconvincingly upbeat.—Mark Jenkins

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

CRIMINAL LOVERS

“Criminal” and “love” just naturally go together for French director François Ozon, who apparently considers himself heir to Genet, Fassbinder, and Rimbaud. Indeed, criminal-love mastermind Alice passionately recites some ripe lines from the latter in her high-school lit class, attracting a leer from one of her admirers, Said. Alice promises to make love with Said, but instead she lures him so that his boyfriend, Luc, can stab him to death—an act Alice seems to have planned less out of hostility toward Said than as a rite of passage for Luc. Then the criminal not-quite-lovers take flight into the woods, where they encounter an ominous solitary woodsman (Miki Manojlovic, also seen in Set Me Free) who locks Alice in the cellar and ties Luc to his bed. The subsequent twists aren’t really enough to sustain a feature-length film, so Ozon keeps flashing back to the planning and execution of Said’s murder. This gothic tale has plenty of grisly details—horrifying or humorous, depending on how seriously you take them—but fundamentally it’s slight.

—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

101 RENT BOYS

Like their recent feature, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s documentary about L.A. street hustlers skims the surface of a potentially engrossing subject. The filmmakers choose 101 male prostitutes and assign each a number, a T-shirt emblazoned with that numeral, and a $50 bill in exchange for permission to shoot interviews. The men, an unprepossessing lot, respond to questions about their backgrounds, customers, sexual preferences, relationships, futures, and other matters. A few display their bodies to interject some prurient interest; one stubs out a cigarette on his butt. Had the filmmakers chosen to focus on a handful of rent boys, they might have uncovered something of substance. But their misguided attempt to cram 101 hustlers’ lives into 80 minutes titillates more than it enlightens. —Joel E. Siegel

At 11:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Also screening Oct. 21: Our House: A Very Real Documentary About Kids

of Gay and Lesbian Parents and Sissy Duckling (11 a.m. at the JCC Theater, free); Queer as Folk II and In the Life: The Boys of Manchester (noon at the Lincoln Theatre); Call to Witness (1:15 p.m. at the JCC Theater); “Supermama Melodrama: Black Women’s Shorts” (3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); “Nothing but Net: Women’s Basketball Documentaries” (5 p.m. at the JCC Theater); Treading Water (7 p.m. at the JCC Theater); Julie and Me (9 p.m. at the JCC Theater); Grease Sing-a-Long (9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); and Straightman (11 p.m. at the JCC Theater).

22

Sunday

CHUTNEY POPCORN

The fun begins when Indo-American lesbian Reena decides to bear a child for her infertile sister, Sarita—only it’s not that much fun. Nisha Ganatra’s dramedy has lots of complications, from the sisters’ invariably disapproving mother (played by veteran Madhur Jaffrey) to the unhappiness of Reena’s lover Lisa (Law and Order’s Jill Hennessy) with the pregnancy—and with the task of wielding a turkey baster filled with the sperm of Sarita’s annoying husband, Mitch. Then there’s the whole cross-cultural thing, the temptations of ex-lovers, Mitch’s taste for pop psychology, and lots of banter from Reena and Lisa’s lesbian extended family. Trendy as it may sound, though, this is every bit as predictable as TV sitcoms that don’t make room for lesbians, Indians, or artificial insemination. —Mark Jenkins

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, $10.

Also screening Oct. 22: Swallows (11 a.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); “This Ain’t Church: Men’s Shorts” (1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre); and “Absolut Best: Lesbian and Gay Films of the 20th Century” (3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre).