San Francisco International Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Festival
June 16 – 26
Frameline, the world’s largest resource for LGBT media and film, announces the 35th anniversary of the internationally renowned San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. This year’s legendary showcase of cinema runs June 16 through 26, with San Francisco screenings at Castro Theatre, the Roxie Theatre, and Berkeley’s Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.
Besides 231 films in 105 programs, which includes 80 features, 151 shorts from 30 countries, including many locally produced films, there will be a number of awards presentations, special programs, including educational panels and live events designed to engage audiences around the festival’s history and unique role in shaping San Francisco’s LGBT and arts communities. There will also be many film makers and actors representing their films in attendance who will participate in Q and A.
Check out film descriptions — The schedule — Ticket purchase
Movies I’ve seen, and I’ve only scratched the surface:
A gay couple is trying to work out their problems while hitchhiking through the countryside. One is a rampant boy slut while the other wants him to be monogamous. Unfortunately, they get a bit tired of walking and discussing their problems, and hitch a ride on a truck hauling five coffins. Actually, the five is an illusion. There is really only one coffin, and it holds a vampire who causes hallucinations while luring victims to their final encounter. The men have their work cut out for them as the night progresses and they muster their wits and courage to vanquish the bloodsucker. Not too much terribly new here except it’s a gay couple put to the challenge. They are both very likable characters, and the subsidiary characters are interesting enough. It is humorous and fast paced romp at a remote, deserted truck stop, and we all hope daylight will save our heroes.
Bob’s New Suit
The suit itself narrates the film while he awaits Bob finally finding and wearing him. This is an interesting and novel perspective. It’s amusing to hear the suit describe the fashion sense of each of the characters as they are introduced. The action in this family dynamic dramady centers around Bob and his girlfriend as they announce theirengagement to his parents (who have secrets and lies of their own), his sister (who has been accepted by the family as gay, but now must broach the subject of sexual reassignment) and her girlfriend (a true fashionista). There are varying degrees of acceptance that have to be reached for the family to maintain harmony. Surprises at the end just add to the complications they must face. It’s refreshing that there are no bad guys in this film, just good hearted people trying to make sense of their changing relationships and the natural growth that should occur within a family.
Christopher and his Kind
I now understand why Dr. Who doesn’t have sex with his female traveling companion – at least this most recent Dr. Who, Matt Smith. He is not so inclined. Smith took some time off from his duties on the BBC SciFi series to play Christopher Isherwood in this film. Isherwood wrote the Berlin Stories which book was later developed into the Broadway hit, followed by the film classic, ‘Cabaret.’ Isherwood felt the transition from his written stories to enactment took on a life of its own which drifted far from his original intent or perhaps he wasn’t honest enough the first time. So decades later in 1987, he wrote ‘Christopher Isherwood and His Kind, 1929-1939’ to bring more veracity to his actual experiences. This retelling of his times in pre-War Berlin is much more overtly sexual and homoerotic, delving into his adventures in the gay bars and his relationship with one street cleaner in particular. But more interesting, at least to me, was his moral and ethical response to the rise of Nazism taking place around him. Though he found the Nazis morally repellant, he depicted himself as selfishness, deciding not to get involved. Was this retelling of his stories a self-condemnation or justification? In any case, this British drama is sumptuous, erotic, well written and beautifully photographed.
Co-dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
This has to be the brightest, sharpest comedy in the festival. The plot may be banal – aliens come to Earth to get their hearts broken so irreparably that they can never love again. It is thought on their home planet that love emissions are destroying the ozone layer and, therefore, life on the planet. Once broken hearted, they can return home. Flimsy at best. But what is done to dress the skeletal plot is witty, urban and very human. We follow three aliens, all Lesbians, as they try to fall in love, one successfully with a shy stationery store clerk, and deal with Earth culture. They certainly don’t blend in as well as the ‘Third Rock …” family did. Another source of humor is how earthlings don’t take much notice of their robotic movements and their strange uniform whose collar attempts to camouflage their gill slits. They learn quickly about earthly social habits and universal emotions, much as Mork did during his visit to Earth from Ork — love is a good thing, even for the ozone. Truly a gem.
Marshall and Gabe have been together for 7 blissful years. But time has taken its toll on their relationship — at least as far as Marshall is concerned. The spark is gone. The routine has set in and there doesn’t seem to be any time left –after work, gym, computer time, TV watching — for lovemaking. Marshall is so frustrated that he downloads an app called eCupid to help him find romance and get some satisfaction. This supernatural app interferes in unexpected and disruptive ways, causing some tumultuous changes in both their lives with the ultimate goal of Marshall finding true love and happiness. Marshall and Gabe would have behaved in exactly the same way if they were Marsha and Gail or Mitch and Gertie. A couple is a couple is a couple, and the course committed love takes finds no gender boundary. So, lessons are to be learned by any audience. A very fun and wise film with a lovable, though confused and awkward, Marshall played by Houston Rhines.
Flight of the Cardinal
Setting: A rustic, expansive Lodge in North Carolina nestled among the hills and lakes of the Smoky Mountains. A proprietor invites three of his friends and business partners to evaluate the lodge and its potential, and invest more to get it through a tough economic down slump. Into this bucolic Eden, an evil snake in the form of a local guy is hired to temporarily help out. He needs some cash and is willing to work in the lodge for the weekend. But wanting more than a little cash, he has a nefarious plan that unfolds during the course of the weekend. He lies, cheats, manipulates, threatens, casts doubts, and starts to control the situation to reach his ends. The skies darken, the storm approaches, the road in and out of the area is blocked by fallen trees and the plot reaches a crescendo. What will happen to the lodge proprietor who was only trying to start a new life after his bitter disappointments in New York? What will happen to all his friends? Will this evildoer succeed? While this thriller unravels the audience may feel compelled to shout at the very screen – watch the security tapes and see what this yokel is actually doing, don’t leave him alone with that guest, turn off the oven or dinner will be ruined! Agatha Christie may be turning over in her grave.
Four More Years
Since ‘The West Wing,’ political entertainment has become informative, witty and fun. Actors have learned how to rattle off issues, statistics, political maneuvering as well as personal problems while briskly walking down hallways of power, only taking a breath in elevators. ‘Four More Years’ is the latest addition to the genre. This Swedish entry is a political romance that uses national issues for witty repartee between our two appealing protagonists. David, from the liberal party, is quickly descending into political oblivion. We aren’t really told why, but he and his party are out of favor. Martin, who is from the opposing socialist party, is gaining popularity within his party and is poised for rising quickly to the top. David, married to his chief advisor, wasn’t even aware he was gay till he took a closer look at Martin and realized he was attracted to him. Martin can count most of the country’s government politicos as his list of conquests. But the attraction and growing love between them is undeniable below the fast-paced banter. And though most of it is lost on me, being unaware of issues and politics in Sweden, it is still funny. Go figure. This is a smart, dare I say adorable, film not to be missed.
Gun Hill Road
Esai Morales plays, Enrique, a Latino convict who is paroled and goes home to the barrio to find his son has grown into his daughter. The similar topic of homosexuality in an Hispanic family and a father’s inability to deal with it was broached by Benjamin Bratt in the San Francisco based film, ‘La Mission’ last year. Both men struggle with the cultural stigma attached to homosexuality, both feel the loss of their only son. Enrique’s struggle is increased due to his own experiences while in prison. Enrique’s’ inner conflict takes a violent turn as he struggles with his own demons. At the same time, his son, Michael, is coming to terms with his own sexual identity and how he fits in with the rest of the world around him. A powerful drama whose lesson needs repeating till cultural stigmas as well as the more general social barriers are conquered.
Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together
Girl on girl crush in Chicago — but the object of Jessie’s affection, Jamie, doesn’t know or doesn’t care. So Jessie sadly dates lots of girls instead. And Jamie, who will soon depart for New York to pursue a career in acting, has sex with lots of girls since she’s not attached. A good premise for porn, though thin for a feature film. Tedious conversations oft repeated about Jessie’s broken heart bog the film down. And most unfortunate of all is that these actors, obviously not singers, break into song, with the Smith Brothers clones playing the Greek Chorus during these musical numbers. We do see a cuple of flashes of Jessie acting in a play, so we know she is also pursuing an acting career. Yes, these women are expressing their sexual selves, brava perhaps for a short.
Though the youngest in his university to ever win a prestigious filmmaking award, years later Zach seems to have thrown away his promising career in Hollywood, or maybe he really didn’t have the talent to succeed. Fortunately, due to the existence of parallel universes, he may have an opportunity to correct his mistakes. This is a very intriguing story that takes place at the campus of his greatest success – or point of departure from it – as he returns 15 years later to judge that very competition. He must deal with his younger persona and figure out how to improve the boy’s future, and his own. Seems the university is filled with only gay boys and a couple of fag hags, which by the way, is Zach’s intended next project – with heterosexuals as the minority. Acting is a little uneven, but concept is thought provoking.
Leave It On the Floor
The best thing that could have happened to Brad was his mother throwing him out when he came out to her. He drifts into a club/ballroom and discovers a competition – a flamboyant contest of different iconic stereotypes voguing on a runway and currying favor from the judges and bombastic crowds — as documented 20 years ago in the film classic, ‘Paris Is Burning’. The school girl, the vamp, the queen, the businessman among others. Brad was mesmerized by the outrageous energy – so joyous and overwhelming. These people are proud of what they are doing and who they are. This is an unfamiliar world to him. Soon, he is befriended by a household of transvestites – seems there are many households that compete as groups in these runway competitions. And it’s all set to music. There are lots of songs strung throughout the film reflecting the action and sentiments of the protagonists – a modern gay black opera, which reflect such topics as suicide (Don’t Jump), and love in the ghetto (It’s Just Black Love). It’s fun, though not always happy. Its message is positive and uplifting. And you can sign along.
Looking for Simon
Simon lives in Marseilles, France, and calls his mother, Valerie, in Berlin every week or so. When he doesn’t call and she can’t get him on the phone either, she senses something is wrong.’ She goes to Marseilles to find him. He’s on vacation so he hasn’t been at work in the clinic where he’s a doctor. Nobody thinks his disappearance is a problem but Valerie. In desperation, Valerie contacts the only one of Simon’s lovers she’s met, Jens, and he joins her to continue the search. Even though Jens and Simon broke up and became friends two years before, Jens becomes as involved as Valerie in the search and growing apprehension. In the process, both Valerie and Jens discover they really didn’t know Simon as well as they thought they had. The exploration becomes one of discovery and self-discovery for both mother and former lover as they follow leads and find more than they expected regarding Simon.
On the surface, ‘Madame X’ is a childlike, superhero fantasy painted in bright primary colors and populated by good natured transvestites, dykes and other sympathetic souls who just want to live and love. But actually depicted in this Indonesian film is the brutality and hatred by right wing religious fundamentalists whose aim is the eradicated from the land the source of evil and depravity, gays, who are the cause of all the natural disasters which visit the islands. There is also the slave trade situation and other other human rights violations to be dealt with. Adam is a sweet natured, transvestite hair dresser/prostitute who, through a series of brutal events, ends up in a little village where he is trained to be a dancer as well as a superhero! The stark contradiction between the playful, colorful characters and the treatment they suffer is jarring.
Mangus wants to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather – playing Christ in the school Easter play. This film is not about the quality of the songs or singers, but the recreation of the very amateurish energy and hopefulness of high school students (not to be confused with television and film’s High School Musical or Glee). The acting by all the characters is also intentionally amateurish – just to refresh our memories of how we may have been in our own geeky youth, driven by an inconsequential dream, hopeful, undaunted. It’s good that he only wanted to perform in the high school play and not as a career.
It’s difficult to watch the encroaching decrepitude of aging, both physical and mental. Still, we all have to face it — if we’re lucky. It’s inevitable if we live. Isadora and her devoted husband, Enrique, live in an art-filled, comfortable apartment in Chile, where it is a constant battle to just get by due to Isadora’s degrading health. She dare not walk down the stairs, she forgets when she leaves the water running, she wakes to nightmares she can’t remember. No help is her visiting daughter, Rosario, who is insensitive, overbearing, loud, and trying to take Isadora’s home out from under her. As the onfrontation between the two progresses, Isabella’s fraility becomes palpable and each step, each thought, becomes more labored. I felt several decades older by the end of the film — a tribute to this convincingly written and acted family drama.
Sleeping Beauty of East Finchley
Joan is a middle-aged English spinster living with her mother. Her life is dreary, routine and loveless. One day while the day nurse, Patricia, it attending to Joan’s mother’s needs, she goes to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and finds Joan listening to the radio with earphones and singing along. Joan has a gorgeous voice which she has kept hidden all these long, empty years. Patricia convinces Joan to come to the choral group she attends and perhaps lend her voice to it. The group is called Friends of Dusty and Joan has no idea what that name represents. Through the course of this 50 minute film, included in an evening of 3 short films, Joan undergoes a true awaken in many senses. This is a sensitive film about self revelations, changes in social outlook, and acceptance. It’s often a bumpy, confusing and frightening road she must traverse and we encourage her along the way.
Probably the most sympathetic rendering of an outsider junior high school student, ‘Spork’ follows the daunting life of Spork (from a combination of spoon and fork), herself – an hermaphrodite. It’s hard enough being unattractive, with glasses, bushy hair and unfashionable clothes, and to be an orphan living with her brother in a trailer park, but to bear the brunt of sexual insults upon her confused gender can cause a girl to consider suicide. Instead, Spork wants to compete in a school dance contest, especially heroic in her circumstances and lack of experience. Her trials seem convincingly real, her emotions tender (sensitively played by Savannah Stehlin), even in the extreme cartoonish atmosphere created in the film. Stereotypes seems like familiar, endearing characters: Tootsie Roll, Spork’s lithe black friend who is a natural dancer; Chunk the overweight Chinese presence who offers Spork sage advice; Betsy Byotch, the Britney Spears look-alike with her entourage of clones, harasses Spork to distraction. One can’t help but admire, empathize and love Spork. Can’t wait to see her dance routine.
Any film director Tom Tykwer of ‘Run, Lola, Run’ fame makes I want to see. His fast-paced (in this film often overlapping) dialogue and off beat perspective always keeps an audience on its toes . ‘Three’ follows its trio of protagonists in their chosen fields of stem cell research and art, as well as their interests in modern dance, philosophy and politics. Tykwer must be a Renaissance man to be so comfortable with all these areas, as are these characters. Hanna, a TV host adept in many intellectual realms, has been living with Simon, an unfulfilled commercial artist, for years. She meets a man at a lecture she finds undeniably attractive and has an affair with him. Simon, confronting a cancer scare, also meets a man at the swimming pool where he regularly works out, and falls under the sway of this intriguing stranger, forcing Simon to reasses his gender identity. How does this loving couple, who decides to marry, deal with their infidelities and growing feelings for their other lover? Since the name of the film is ‘Three,’ you figure out the rest. This is a supremely intellectual (as well as intelligent) film and challenges one to keep up. No dozing here.
Jocyln takes a job on a remote island off Washington State caring for a man who is in a vegetative state while his family goes on vacation. There is no Internet, almost no cell phone signal, and certainly no company at this woodsy country home. She has too much time on her hands and weighty thoughts to ponder. As if being isolated weren’t difficult enough, Jocyln is dealing with personal loss as well as problems with the few locals she has met on the island. It’s interesting to watch her decline under the pressures of her own baggage magnified by the seclusion. Be prepared to feel the same isolation and ennui — this film is intentionally slow and we are experiencing her surroundings through her. I spent some of her down time thinking of things she could do to occupy herself in these circumstances besides watching old video on her cell phone and exercising — like reading a book, exploring the woods, writing a short story, watching other channels on the television besides the one set for the old man’s fishing show we assume he enjoys though there’s no way of knowing.