Listen to this article

DAVENPORT – At a time when LGBTQ+ issues are topping controversies in politics and schools, a film showing this Friday in Davenport celebrates LGBTQ+ life in a traditional way: by looking at one gay couple’s challenges in starting a family.

“The Mattachine Family” shows twice this Friday, in an event that also benefits two of the Quad Cities’ leading LGBTQ+ organizations. The film, featuring former stars from “Walking Dead: World Beyond” and “Schitt’s Creek,” is currently only available at a few festivals nationwide and at select viewings like Friday’s.

It’s coming to the area courtesy of Davenport mayoral candidate and Iowa State Rep. Ken Croken, a long-time LGBTQ+ community ally who spotted the film last month at Chicago’s Reeling Film Festival of LGBTQ+ cinema. He thought the film was a great fit to kick off a planned series of events to benefit The Project of the Quad Cities (TPQC) and Clock Inc. LGBT+ Center. 

Croken said he was drawn to how “The Mattachine Family” tells a universal story entirely through the experience of LGBTQ+ people.

“I wanted to help normalize the situation here,” said Croken, also a former Scott County Supervisor. “This is a group of young adults who are dealing with issues that everybody deals with. It just so happens they’re all LGBTQ+ individuals.

“They’re dealing with relationships, and parenthood, and things that everybody has to deal with. I liked the idea of normalizing the situation.”


Diversity runs beneath a gay male-centered plot

Dotted throughout with conventions of LGBTQ+ culture (i.e., conversations about kink and drag, and a name that hearkens a secretive gay male society from the 1950s), “The Mattachine Family” in many ways tells a traditional feel-good story where “chosen family” wins.

That’s what I think is so special about ‘The Mattachine Family,’ “ says director Andy Vallentine. “We have told a queer story about the universality of love, family, and community.”

The Mattachine Family characters

Nico Tortorella and Juan Pablo Di Pace play the main characters in “The Mattachine Family,” which has a diverse supporting cast.


While its story is centered around two relatively privileged cisgender gay men, “The Mattachine Family” represents diversity in some surprising ways.

Its main lead, Thomas, is played by Nico Tortorella, best-known for portraying the queer character Felix Carlucci on “Walking Dead: World Beyond.” In real life, Tortorella revealed in 2018 that they are “gender-fluid.”

Among the many supportive women around Thomas and his husband Oscar, Emily Hampshire’s Leah (Hampshire played David’s best friend Stevie Budd on Schitt’s Creek) is the most pivotal. Other key characters in the film are racially diverse.

The crew that made the film also represents a different kind of diversity. It ranges from producer Siddharth Ganji, also a gaming effects guru, to actor Zach Braff from “Garden State” and “Scrubs” fame.


Reviews of the film have been mixed, but that’s really not the point of the showing, says Tyler Mitchell, marketing director for TPQC. Rather, the point is the film’s overall positive message about “chosen family,” and the chance to support worthwhile causes.

“For many queer people, family isn’t the people you grew up with,” he said. “Rather, it’s the people you meet along the way who love and embrace you for who you truly are. To help share a film that carries that message is a true privilege.”

Fundraising for LGBTQ+ groups part of Croken’s long history of allyship

Proceeds from the film’s showings will go to two of the Quad Cities’ most active LGBTQ+ nonprofits.

The Project of the Quad Cities provides health care and behavioral health services to LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized identities throughout 22 counties along the Iowa/Illinois border. It also began last month to provide gender-affirming care for youth, a pivotal step given that the state of Iowa now bans those services.


Iowa State Rep. Ken Croken and writer/director Andy Vallentine of "The Mattachine Family"

Iowa State Rep. Ken Croken, left, met Andy Vallentine of “The Mattachine Family” at Chicago’s Reeling film festival last month.


Clock Inc. LGBT+ Community Center provides support, mentoring, and social opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth and adults. It also runs a transgender clothing closet and facilitates voice lessons for those transitioning.


Croken says he hopes to talk further with Reeling about starting regular showings here in the Quad Cities of its films each year. The showings would provide an ongoing effort to raise money for TPQC and Clock Inc.

For Croken, the collaboration with the two groups is a way to continue a career-long support he’s shown for LGBTQ+ causes. He said his involvement extends back to volunteering for the AIDS Project New Haven in his former hometown, and includes volunteering for The Project when it still carried its original name, the AIDS Project Quad Cities.

Croken says the “mean” and sometimes condemning response from conservative factions to AIDS/HIV treatment campaigns back in the ‘80s reminds him of how some groups react today to the press for transgender rights.

“What the heck happens to you that turns you that dark?” he says. “Also, I would like to think my sympathies are not limited to my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Because to me, it’s Christian… or at least humanist. We’re not supposed to be judging each other and being mean and all that.”

In addition to Reeling, the film recently showed at Salt Lake City, Utah’s Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival; New York City’s annual NewFest of LGBTQ+ film; and earned accolades at the Out International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, too.

Tickets for  Friday’s 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. screenings of” The Mattachine Family” are available at TPQC’s website, or at the door. Though a donation is requested, you can also attend for free. Figge is located at 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport.

Cover photo is courtesy of “The Mattachine Family” and features, l to r, Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Sonia);  Emily Hampshire (Leah); Juan Pablo Di Pace (Oscar); Andy Vallentine (director); Nico Tortorella (Thomas); and Jake Choi (Jamie).