Gangster romance plays Nov. 9 at
Chicago Lesbian and Gay Film Fest

Tadeo Garcia’s feature, “On the Down Low,” plays Nov. 9 at the Reeling 2003 Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival.

Filmmaker Tadeo Garcia likes subverting expectations.

“One of the themes I like to play around with is that not everything is what it seems,” Garcia said. “I like to throw people off as much as I can.”

He does just that in “On the Down Low,” his debut feature that screens Nov. 9 in the Reeling 2003 Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival.

At first “On the Down Low” plays like a genre picture about a Latino gang war on Chicago’s Southwest Side. But the genre conventions are twisted around as a love story emerges between members of the warring gangs. One lovestruck vato defects to his paramour’s gang, setting off a chain of events leading inevitably to violent tragedy.

“I wanted to explore how gangbangers would deal with this history of homosexuality, at the same time trying not to stereotype the gangbangers,” Garcia said.

“On the Down Low” is a remake of Garcia’s 2000 short film “Broken Warning,” which won recognition on both the Latino and lesbian/gay festival circuits. “I got so much response about ?Broken Warning,’ I decided we could do it a lot better and really deepen the characters,” Garcia said.

Garcia and his family financed the five-figure-budget for the Super 16mm feature. Garcia’s Iconoclast Films completed principal photography in summer 2002, with pickup shoots continuing through this September.

Iconoclast has faced difficulties in straddling the two worlds depicted in the film. Some local rap artists originally attached to contribute music to the soundtrack recently dropped out of the project when they balked at the gay content.

“On the Downlow” plays at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9 at Landmark Century Center, 2828 N. Clark. Tickets are $9.

Reeling also includes three other long-format works by Chicago filmmakers.

“A Day on the Force,” by Ronit Bezalel, Laurie Little and Sree Nallamothu, follows a game night with Chicago’s first women’s professional tackle football team. Nov. 8 at 11 a.m. at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 2nd Floor.

Michele Mahoney’s “The Undergrad,” a reworking of “The Graduate” starring members of the drag king troupe The Chicago Kings, plays Nov. 8 at 11 p.m. at Landmark.

Sharon Zurek and Lora Branch’s “Kevin’s Room: Part 2” dramatizes a support group for gay men of color. Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. at Landmark.

Reeling 2003 runs Nov. 6-13, down to eight days from 15 days last year. “We’ve condensed the festival into a shorter, sweeter festival to keep up the quality of the work,” said fest director Brenda Webb.

See or by Ed M. Koziarski,