Friday, June 23, 2017

Alaska is a Drag (feature film)

Alaska is a Drag, dir. Shaz Bennett, 2017 USA, 83 min. 👎
Friday, June 23, 9:15 p.m., Castro Theatre: WORLD PREMIÈRE
Saturday, June 24, 9:15 p.m., Piedmont Theatre, Oakland

Alaska is a Drag
There are people who like movies about drag queens. There are people who like movies about bare-knuckle brawling. If there is an intersection between those two groups, it does not include me. I enjoyed the short film from which this feature film grew, but the fight scenes in the longer version were far too graphic for me, so much so that I walked out more than an hour into the film. I couldn’t stomach the fight scene, even with probably less than 15 minutes left in the film, even to find out what happens to the protagonist. This film unequivocally takes the prize for biggest disappointment of Frameline 41. Definitely, definitely NOT RECOM­MENDED.
Warning: this film contains a graphic depiction of a gang fag-bashing the main character.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Frameline 41: reviewed so far (running tally)

This is an alphabetical list of the feature-length films and shorts programs I’ve reviewed so far in Frameline 41, updated periodically during the festival. Updated 2017-06-22 15:10

Die Mitte der Welt (Center of My World)

Die Mitte der Welt (Center of My World), dir. Jakob M. Erwa, 2016 Germany, 115 min., in German with English subtitles 💖
Wednesday, June 21, 9:15 p.m., Castro Theatre
Die Mitte der Welt (Center of My World): Kat, Nicholas, Phil

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead)

Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead), dir. Victor Villanueva, 2016 Philippines, 90 min., in Tagalog with English subtitles 👌
Monday, June 19, 9:15 p.m., Roxie Theatre: North American première
Patay Na Si Hesus (Jesus is Dead): Iyay, Jay, Jude

100 Men

100 Men, dir. Paul Oremland, 2016 New Zealand, 95 min. 👏
Wednesday, June 21, 1:15 p.m., Castro Theatre: U.S. première

100 Men

My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer, dir. Marc Meyers, 2017 USA, 107 min. 👏
Tuesday, June 20, 9:15 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Ross Lynch (center) is My Friend Dahmer

Sueño en otro idioma / I Dream in Another Language

Sueño en otro idioma / I Dream in Another Language, dir. Ernesto Contreras, 2017 Mexico / Netherlands, 101 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 💖
Tuesday, June 20, 6:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première

Sueño en otro idioma / I Dream in Another Language

Chavela

Chavela, dirs. Catherine Gund & Daresha Kyi, 2017 USA, 90 min., in Spanish with English subtitles and in English without subtitles 👏
Monday, June 19, 6:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Thursday, June 22, 7:00 p.m., Piedmont Theatre, Oakland
Chavela

More than T

More than T, dir. Silas Howard, 2017 USA, 54 min. 👍
Sunday, June 18, 4:00 p.m., Victoria Theatre: WORLD PREMIÈRE
More than T

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Discreet

Discreet, dir. Travis Mathews, 2017 USA, 80 min. 💩👎
Monday, June 19, 9:15 p.m., Victoria Theatre
Discreet

Screwed (Pihalla)

Screwed, dir. Nils-Erik Ekblom, 2017 Finland, 100 min., in Finnish with English subtitles 💖
Monday, June 19, 6:30 p.m., Victoria Theatre: WORLD PREMIÈRE
Screwed (Pihalla)

Prom King, 2010

Prom King, 2010, dir. Christopher Schaap, 2017 USA, 102 min. 💖
Monday, June 19, 1:30 p.m., Castro Theatre

Prom King, 2010

Girl Unbound

Girl Unbound (a.k.a. Girl Unbound: the War to be Her), dir. Erin Heidenreich, 2016 Pakistan / Canada / USA, 80 min., in English and in Urdu and Pashto with English subtitles 💖
Sunday, June 18, 1:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: West Coast première
Girl Unbound

The Wound (Inxeba)

The Wound (Inxeba), dir. John Trengove, 2017 South Africa, 88 min., in Xhosa with English subtitles 👏
Sunday, June 18, 7:00 p.m., Castro Theatre: West Coast première

The Wound (Inxeba)

FL41: “TBA” screenings announced

Frameline 41 has named the titles for the two “to be announced” slots in the schedule:

TBA1: Saturday, June 24, 11:30 a.m., Roxie Theatre, “Woke Women Mixtape

TBA2: Saturday, June 24, 9:15 p.m., Victoria Theatre, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nobody’s Watching / Nadie nos mira

Nobody’s Watching / Nadie nos mira, dir. Julia Solomonoff, 2017 Argentina, 102 min., in Spanish with English subtitles and English without subtitles 💤
Saturday, June 17, 9:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: West Coast première
Saturday, June 24, 1:30 p.m., Victoria Theatre
Nobody’s Watching / Nadie nos mira

God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country, dir. Francis Lee, 2017 UK, 104 min. 😐
Saturday, June 17, 6:30 p.m., Castro Theatre

God’s Own Country

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall, dir. Katherine Fairfax Wright, 2017 USA, 100 min. 💖👑
Saturday, June 17, 3:45 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Archer

The Archer, dir. Valerie Weiss, 2017 USA, 86 min. 💖😱
Friday, June 16, 6:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Friday, June 23, 9:30 p.m., Piedmont Theatre, Oakland

The Archer

Saturday Church

Saturday Church, dir. Damon Cardasis, 2017 USA, 81 min. 💖💅👠
Friday, June 16, 9:15 p.m., Castro Theatre: West Coast première
Saturday Church

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Transtastic (2017)

Transtastic” (shorts program)
Monday, June 19, 7:00 p.m., Roxie Theatre

Second chances: shorts that run twice in Frameline 41

The Frameline 41 LGBTQ film festival has a dozen programs of short films, plus a half dozen more programs in the new category of “Episodics,” serial dramas and documentary series, mostly web-based, presenting a whole season worth of episodes at a time in most of these screenings. It is not always possible to pigeonhole a short film into just one category, so several of them appear in two of the shorts programs. Here is your guide to the short films you have two chances to see:
Britney-holics Anonymous:
a Spear-itual Awakening
Fun in Boys Shorts
Bi Candy
Brown GirlsBrown Girls (all 7 episodes)
Fun in Girls Shorts (episode 4 only)
EncuentroHomegrown
Realness & Revelations
Étage XThe Devil is in the Details
Fun in Girls Shorts
More Love, Less
Prepackaged Bullshit
Realness & Revelations
Bi Candy
MuxesTranstastic
Up Close & Personal
Al otro lado /
The Other Side
Realness & Revelations
Worldly Affairs
UmbrellaTranstastic
Up Close & Personal
Walk for MeRealness & Revelations
Transtastic

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Brown Girls (episodes 1 through 7)

Brown Girls, dir. Sam Bailey, 2017 USA, 7 episodes, total runtime 72 minutes 💖
part of Frameline’s new Episodics category
Sunday, June 18, 9:30 p.m., Elmwood Theatre in Berkeley
Tuesday, June 20, 7:00 p.m. Roxie Theatre

Brown Girls
So far, I’ve only seen Episode 4, which is in the “Fun in Girls Shorts” program this year, but on the strength of that snippet I have no hesitation in giving the whole series a MUST SEE. Okay, if you absolutely can’t make it to either festival screening, you can watch the whole series on vimeo, but this series should be especially fun to share with a full house. I’m schlepping to the East Bay for the screening on Sunday.

watch on vimeo

Here we go!

The Frameline 41 International LGBTQ Film Festival — the oldest, the biggest, and the best queer film festival — begins in less than 24 hours… I’m about to notch two dozen advance reviews, with more to come, tonight, tomorrow, and as I have spare time during the week. I changed the dates on the first few reviews so that they will all be grouped together under “June 2017,” but you can also look for the #Frameline41 tag. I have tags for various categories like shorts program, documentary, Must See, and World Premiere, among others. This year, my ratings are on an Emoji scale, with sparkle heart 💖at the top, followed by clapping 👏 hands, thumbs 👍 up, neutral 😐 face, thumbs 👎 down, and (hopefully remaining unused!) 💣💤💩😵 or other expressions of revulsion. So far this year, “must see” is easily outnumbering “not recommended,” which bodes well for the rest of the festival.

I expect to attend about 25 to 30 screenings in the festival proper, and have hopefully about the same number of reviews from “screeners” by the time all is said and done. I will also be Tweeting (@FilmQueenReview — notice that there’s no S at the end). Leave comments here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Messenger.

Film Queen Facebook Events

I have created Facebook Events for two of the screenings I am most excited about:
  • Brown Girls on Sunday, June 18 at 9:30 p.m. at the Elmwood Theatre in Berkeley. This is a wonderful web series — yes, you can watch it online for free any time — that I am really looking forward to seeing with an audience. It is the “brown girls” themselves making the story of people like them, and doing it with impressive production values to boot.
  • Freak Show on Saturday, June 24 at 9:30 p.m. at the Castro Theatre. A fabulous teenage boy (played by the actor who was the boarding-school Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, the movie about deciphering the Nazi code machine) is forced to move to a small town in the Deep South and attend a deeply conservative high school. His reaction to the bullying is to run for Prom Queen. If you think “freak” is at least sometimes a very good word, you should see this film. Oh, and did I mention that his mother is played by Bette Midler? You will get out of this screening probably a little after 11:00, leaving you plenty of time to get to your choice of “night before the parade” parties.
You can get tickets ahead of time at the festival box office (at Strut on Castro, opposite the Castro Theatre a bit closer to 18th) or online at Frameline.ORG.  The day of, you can buy tickets at the venue unless the screening is “sold out” — in which case just show up as far ahead of time as possible and get in the “Rush” line for the last few reserved seats they release just before curtain. Back before I started getting the all-access pass, I was in the “Rush” line easily a dozen times and never once failed to get in.

Oh, and one random factoid: the movie Alaska is a Drag is about Alaska, the state, not Alaska, the RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna, but it does still involve drag queens.

Extra Terrestres (Extraterrestrials)

Extra Terrestres (Extraterrestrials), dir. Carla Cavina Meléndez, 2016 Venezuela/Puerto Rico, 113 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 😐
Saturday, June 17, 9:15 p.m., Roxie Theatre: West Coast première
Thursday, June 22, 9:30 p.m., Elmwood Theatre, Berkeley
Extra Terrestres (Extraterrestrials)

Quest (documentary)

Quest, dir. Jonathan Olshefski, 2017 USA, 106 min. 👍
Sunday, June 18, 9:15 p.m., Roxie Theatre
Quest

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Frameline 41: East Bay highlights

I will be spending almost all of the festival in the three San Francisco venues this year, as I usually do, although this year I am planning to schlep across the vast and forbidding briny deep for one screening. However, for those of you who actually live east of Treasure Island, there are some exceptional films you can see this year without braving the sea monsters who live under the bridge and in the BART tube. 
 
The East Bay venues are the Elmwood Theatre, College & Ashby in Berkeley, from Sunday, June 18 through Thursday, June 22, and the Piedmont Theatre on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, from Thursday, June 22 through Saturday, June 24. (Yes, that means there is one day that you have two venues competing for your eyeballs in the seats and your butts on the screen, or something like that.)
 
Here are my top picks:

Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution

Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution, dir. Yony Leyser, 2017 USA, 72 min. 👏
Saturday, June 17, 9:30 p.m., Victoria Theatre: North American première
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution

Coming Up Queer (2017)

“Coming Up Queer” (shorts program), total runtime 75 min. 💖
Sunday, June 18, 1:30 p.m., Victoria Theatre
1 world première, 2 West Coast premières

Monday, June 12, 2017

QWOCFF 2017

I spent a good chunk of this weekend at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival, produced by QWOCMAP SF (QWOC Media Arts Project). Here are my impressions:
I included some grainy photos of the shorts filmmakers (best I could do with a smartphone for a camera). Even though I identify as neither a woman nor a person of color, it’s still empowering to see people putting their own stories, in their own words, in their own images, out into the world. Kudos to Executive Director Madeleine Lim, Managing Directory Kebo Drew, Festival Coordinator Raquel López, the board and other volunteers, and most of all the filmmakers, for putting together a great festival.

QWOCMAP website • Twitter: @QWOCMAPSF

QWOCFF: Tenacious for Love

“Tenacious for Love” (shorts program) 👏
Queer Women of Color Film Festival
Sunday, June 11, 6:00 p.m., Brava Theater

Raquel López, Robin Cloud, Jai Lei Yee
Jay Roque, Raquel Stratton, Jay Gash
Monique Dismuke, Lorena Arriola
Erinn Carter, Monica James, Sabine Talaugon
Monica Ortiz, Denise W. Henderson, Tina Takemoto

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare, dir. Josh Howard, 2016 USA, 88 min. 💖
Sunday, June 18, 11:00 a.m., Castro Theatre: Bay Area première
Saturday, June 24, 2:15 p.m., Piedmont Theatre (Oakland): East Bay première
The Lavender Scare

QWOCFF: The Revival: Women and the Word

The Revival: Women and the Word by Sekiya Dorsett, 2016 USA, 78 min. 💖
Queer Women of Color Film Festival 2017 Centerpiece Screening
Saturday, June 10, 4:00pm, Brava Theater
The Revival: Women and the Word

QWOCFF: Beloved Community

“Beloved Community” (shorts program)👏
Queer Women of Color Film Festival
Friday, June 9, 7:30pm, Brava! Theatre

Frameline isn’t the only LGBTQ film festival in town this month! QWOCMAP, the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, is holding its 13th annual festival this weekend at the Brava Theater. Opening night was a collection of 12 short films across a range of subjects and styles. These films are very much worth seeing if you get the opportunity. (Note: all of the films were presented with full subtitles.)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bones of Contention

Bones of Contention, dir. Andrea Weiss, 2017 USA, 75 min., in English and Spanish with English subtitles 👏
Saturday, June 17, 4:00pm, Victoria Theatre: U.S. premiere

LGBTQ liberation in Spain, post-Franco

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Siebzehn (Seventeen)

Siebzehn (Seventeen), dir. Monja Art, 2017 Austria, 104 min., in German with English subtitles 👌
Saturday, June 17, 3:45pm, Roxie Theatre: North American premiere
Paula (foreground) & Lilli (left) in Siebzehn (Seventeen)

Just Charlie

Just Charlie, dir. Rebekah Fortune, 2017 UK, 100 min. 💖
Saturday, June 17, 1:15pm, Roxie Theatre: U.S. premiere
contains a scene of transphobic/homophobic violence
Harry Gilby is Just Charlie

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Handsome Devil

Handsome Devil (a.k.a. Piękny Drań), dir. John Butler, 2016 Ireland, 95 minutes 💖
Saturday, June 17, 1:30pm, Victoria Theatre
Tuesday, June 20, 9:15pm, Victoria Theatre
Ned (Fionn O’Shea) • Conor & Ned • Conor (Nicholas Galitzine)

Say it with me, now: “Go raibh maith flaithis do Bhord Scannan na hÉireann!”

Woke Women Mixtape

Woke Women Mixtape: 👏
BKPI, episodes 1–3, dir. Hye Yun Park, 2017 USA, total runtime 40 min. 😐 West Coast premiere
One Nine Five Lewis, ep. 1–5, dir. Chanelle Aponte-Pearson, 2016 USA, total runtime 47 min. 👏 Bay Area premiere
Saturday, June 17, 6:30 p.m., Roxie Theatre
Second screening added: Saturday, June 24, 11:30 a.m., Roxie Theatre
BKPI: Mo (Hye Yun Park) and Dawn (Celiné Justice) are on the case

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Remembering the Man

Remembering the Man, dirs. Nickolas Bird & Eleanor Sharpe, 2015 Australia, 83 min. 💖
Friday, June 16, 7:00pm, Victoria Theatre: Bay Area Premiere
Wednesday, June 21, 4:00pm, Castro Theatre
Remembering the Man

Small Talk (日常對話)

日常對話
Small Talk (Rì Cháng Duì Huà) (日常對話) (日常对话), dir. Huì-Chēn HUÁNG (黃惠偵 • 黄惠侦), 2017 Taiwan, 88 min., in Taiwanese with English subtitles 👎
Saturday, June 17, 11:00am, Roxie Theatre

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Realness & Revelations (shorts program)

Realness & Revelations” (shorts program), total runtime 85 min. 👏
Friday, June 16, 7:00pm, Roxie Theatre
Wednesday, June 21, 7:00pm, Elmwood Theatre (East Bay Screening)
Note: 7 shorts: 4 world premieres, 1 US premiere, and 2 Bay Area premieres!

Friday, June 02, 2017

The Feels

The Feels
The Feels (feature), dir. Jenée Lemarque, 2017 USA, 88 min. 👏
Friday, June 16, 9:15pm, Victoria Theatre: Bay Area Premiere

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Apricot Groves

Apricot Groves (ծիրանի այգիներ) (زردآلو نخلستان), dir. Pouria Heidary Oureh, 2016 Armenia, 80 min., in Armenian and Farsi (Persian) with English subtitles 👌
Friday, June 16, 9:30pm, Roxie Theatre: Bay Area Premiere

Santa y Andrés (Santa and Andres)

Santa y Andrés (Santa and Andres), dir. Carlos Lechuga, 2016 Colombia/France/Cuba, 105 min., in Spanish with (badly made) English subtitles, 👌
Thursday, June 15, 10:00pm, Castro Theatre: Bay Area Premiere
Sunday,  June 25, 4:00pm, Castro Theatre

Dating My Mother

Dating My Mother, dir. Mike Roma, 2017 USA, 84 min. 💖
Friday, June 16, 4:00pm, Castro Theatre • World Première
Saturday, June 24, 4:00pm, Victoria Theatre

Flirting with Disaster

Flirting with Disaster (shorts program), total runtime 87 min.
Friday, June 16, 1:30pm, Castro Theatre
Saturday, June 24, 11:00am, Victoria Theatre

Fun in Girls Shorts (2017)

Fun in Girls Shorts (shorts program), total runtime 79 min.
Saturday, June 17, 1:15pm, Castro Theatre
Sunday, June 25, 11:00am, Castro Theatre
Saturday, June 24, 12:00 noon, Piedmont Theatre (East Bay screening!)

[Administrivia: Unfortunately, only 3 of the 7 short films in this program were available in advance for review screening. Check back later for reviews of the other four. The checkered flag symbol means “not yet reviewed.”]

Fun in Boys Shorts (2017)

Fun in Boys Shorts, short films, total runtime 70 min.
Saturday, June 17, 11:00am, Castro Theatre
Sunday, June 25, 1:30pm, Castro Theatre

Freak Show

Freak Show, feature film, dir. Trudie Styler, 2017 USA, 91 min., 💖 US Premiere
Showcase Film, Saturday, June 24, 9:00pm, Castro Theatre

Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther, center right) announcing his fabulousness on TV

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, documentary, dir. Jennifer Kroot, editor/co-director Bill Weber, 2017 USA, 90 min.,👏
Opening Night Film, Thursday, June 15, 7:00 p.m., Castro Theatre Bay Area Premiere
Second screening added: Saturday, June 24, 9:15 p.m., Victoria Theatre
Armistead Maupin writing an installment of Tales of the City on his faithful IBM Selectric

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Frameline 41 is almost here!

It’s the end of May, which means it’s almost time for the Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival! Stay tuned for reviews of feature films, documentaries, short films, and a new category, “Episodics.” Yes, you can now binge-watch a serial drama or a documentary series with a few hundred of your best friends, all without a Netflix password…

The theme for Frameline 41 is “Genre Queer,” and the lineup boasts 147 films from 19 countries. Fully 40% of the films were made by women — a new record. A fabulous 27 films are having their world premières, with dozens more having their North America, U.S., U.S. West Coast, or San Francisco Bay Area premières.

Check out the Frameline 41 festival website for all the details about times, tickets, and t-shirts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Drive-by Shootings (Capsule reviews of films at Frameline 39)

I hope to add more fleshed-out reviews with pictures, links, and all the belles and whiss-holes, but for now here are my quick impressions of the films I've seen at Frameline 39. I'm posting these reviews in alphabetical order by film title.

All about e: The main character, Elmira, or "e" for short, is the most popular dance club deejay in Sydney, but she's a closeted Lebanese as well as a closeted lesbian. Through a mix-up, she and her gay best friend/legal husband Matt find a duffel bag full of cash, so they run off into the countryside, pursued by the club owner who notices that his $50,000 is missing. Fine performances and technical work, but I found the story unsatisfying. The central character comes across as a selfish, immature narcissist with little reason for anyone to be her friend or lover. Also, the story stitches together a love story, a crime caper, and a road trip movie without really doing justice to any of the three facets. The main character's transformation on the road trip feels more like flipping a light switch than a meaningful story arc. However, it bears mention that the women in the audience seemed to like it rather more than I did, so I'll give it a Recommended rating, with the caveat that it has limited crossover appeal.

Ascendance: The Angels of Change Documentary: Children's Hospital in Los Angeles provides healthcare services and group support for young gender non-conforming people and people of transgender identity. As a fundraiser, they produce a calendar and have a runway fashion show. We get to meet Bamby Salcedo, the program coordinator, and several of the young people in the show as they rehearse. It's an inspiring glimpse of some people blossoming as their authentic selves with a little support. Highly recommended.

Beautiful Something: Over the course of a single night, we follow the intertwined wanderings of four gay men in Philadelphia out for a bit of fun or a feeling of connection or perhaps even both. The characters all start off disconnected, having (or seeking to have) almost impersonal sex, and watching from the audience I felt an invisible wall between me and the characters, but gradually they open up to each other and to the audience, moving from nearly anonymous physical intimacy towards deeper personal rapport in a satisfying arc, with plenty of cute guys to provide eye candy on the journey. Highly recommended.

Beira-Mar (see Seashore)

Butterfly (see Mariposa) (not to be confused with the short film Butterfly in Frameline38)

Do I Sound Gay: Filmmaker David Thorpe feels self-conscious that his voice "sounds gay," so he sets out to learn how to sound less gay, but also to explore what that means, both in terms of the nuts and bolts of phoneme variations and speech melodies and in terms of the psychological associations it  involves. He talks to a speech therapist and an accent coach, and also interviews celebrities ranging from George Takei to David Sedaris, plus an Ohio teen who was beaten up at school and an expert on Paul Lynde. The documentary is both funny and thought-provoking, which is an outstanding combination. MUST SEE. Available on cable On Demand beginning July 10, and opening at the Landmark Opera Plaza July 24.

Float: (short film that screened before Peace of Mind) (no dialogue) Sam Berliner filmed several transgender and genderqueer people moving through the water naked. It's a beautiful celebration of the feeling of freedom of being yourself, with the water and the nakedness evoking all manner of metaphors. Highly recommended.

From this Day Forward: Imagine that you're a woman, and you and your husband have two school-age daughters, when your husband decides to begin the transition to living full-time as a transwoman. Would your marriage survive? Marcia Shattuck has stayed in her marriage to Trisha (né Michael), to the amazement of their now grown children, and daughter Sharon Shattuck has made this documentary. Sharon and her sister get the opportunity to ask some of the unspoken questions from their childhood and to reconnect with Trisha. It's a remarkable story of love and commitment, as well as an exceptional story of one individual's navigation of the gender landscape, illustrated in part by her own wonderful paintings. At one point, Trisha says, "I don't think I'm the perfect example of a transgender individual." Had she said "transgender woman," I might not argue, but I would say that she is a perfect example of a transgender individual. She has charted her own path, with a few concessions for her marriage's sake, but without fundamentally compromising her authenticity. MUST SEE.

Health Class: (short screened before From this Day Forward) A cute short film in which a young man (probably twentysomething) confronts his sex ed teacher about the inadequacy of the curriculum, especially for gay boys. The class focused on the mechanics of sperm-meets-egg, leaving out entirely the part about boy-meets-boy, let alone non-procreative sex. They trade horror stories about sexual experiences gone wrong because of their own and their partners' ignorance, and come to realize that sex ed doesn't do a very good job of preparing anyone for the reality of sex. Highly recommended.

Mariposa (Butterfly): (in Spanish, with English subtitles) I accidentally saw this film twice, because I didn't realize (nor realise) that the film that Frameline billed as Mariposa is the same film that Inside Out billed as Butterfly. (Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly, but also a slang term for queer, without the aggressive connotation of words like maricón/faggot.) As it turns out, though, the second viewing made much more sense than the first, in part thanks to a tip from the introduction at the Frameline screening: the film follows the same set of four characters (plus one more added later) along two "parallel universe" timelines. Pay attention to the young men's facial hair and the young women's hair style and color to keep track of which timeline you're on, as the film jumps back and forth with little or no warning. Even so, though, for those of us in the audience who are not sufficiently fluent in Spanish to follow along without reading the subtitles, it took a lot of effort to follow what was going on. An Argentinian friend tells me that there were subtle shifts in their speech mannerisms that underlined the two separate tracks and marked them as being of slightly different socioeconomic class. Recommended for native speakers, but too confusing for me to recommend it to a general audience. (Note: director Marco Berger also made Ausente/Absent (Frameline 35) and Plan B (Frameline 34), both of which I liked.)

Peace of Mind: A documentary about a remarkable artist, Flo McGarrell, who moved from the United States to the artists' colony of Jacmel, Haiti, and became director of the FOSAJ art center. Flo was an open transman, and encouraged LGBTQ artists to come to Jacmel and to FOSAJ, sometimes creating friction with the straight artists who felt intimidated by the visible presence of queers. Unfortunately, Flo's life was cut short by the earthquake of 2010-01-12, but this film gives us an insight into his personal life and his work, including how the work carries on after his death, also exploring issues of racial and educational privilege and other social issues interwoven in the story. There's a wonderful quote near the beginning of the film that says a lot about Flo as a person: "Everything she was as a child persisted into his adult life, and I think that's rare." Highly recommended.

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist: I wasn't able to get a ticket in Toronto, where it was the closing night film for Inside Out, but I was able to catch up here in San Francisco. Elsie, the title character, is in her 40's, a nice Jewish girl who moves from one steady relationship to another with fluid ease. When she breaks off a relationship with Robyn, a friend challenges Elsie to stay single for five whole months rather than jumping right into a rebound. There are a good many laugh lines, mostly playing on the tropes and clichés of lesbian dramas, but, while I recognized many of the cues, I didn't find them as resonant as the target audience clearly did. Recommended; highly recommended for fans of lesbian drama.

Seashore (Beira-Mar): (in Brazilian Portuguese, with English subtitles) Martin goes to the hometown of his father's estranged family to pay his respects after his grandfather dies. His best friend Tomaz tags along for the road trip to the seaside town, but seems less interested than Martin in meeting girls. Tomaz has been afraid to come out to Martin, but over the course of the trip, as it becomes obvious, Martin finally asks Tomaz, and then asks him what it feels like to kiss a guy. It's a cute and visually pleasing film, with some layers to the story and with fine performances from the exquisitely photogenic lead actors. Highly recommended.

Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story: Chuck Holmes was the founder of Falcon, the first major gay porn company in the United States. His films were known for a reliable aesthetic: beautiful scenery and beautiful young men with hairless chests, clean and clean-cut collegiate types. He saw making gay porn as an important facet of gay liberation, but never felt truly accepted by gay society because of the stigma attached to being a pornographer. He began to get involved in politics and activism in the early 1990's, in part because he saw his business in jeopardy if the Republicans held the White House for a fourth term of Reagan-Bush, but politicians were reluctant to be seen with him. This documentary covers both the establishment of his film empire and his work with the Clinton campaign, the Human Rights Campaign, and other causes. It's interesting, not least for the interview with Jeff Stryker, who is surprisingly articulate if you've only seen his early appearances in front of the camera. MUST SEE for gay men, highly recommended for all audiences (though you might want the version without the clips from Falcon films, blurred though the explicit parts are).

Stuff: Deb and Trisha have been together for 14 years and have two kids. Trisha is a dentist, busy with work and also dealing with her mother, five years after her father's death. Deb handles the bulk of the work of raising the kids, but feels increasing distance from Trisha, who shuts down Deb's attempts to support her through the situation with her mother by saying simply, "You don't understand!" Then Jamie comes into the picture, the single mother of a classmate of Deb and Trisha's younger daughter. Jamie is training to be a tattoo artist, and she and Deb grow closer over the course of several playdates with the kids. How will Deb and Trisha's relationship weather the coming storm?  Stuff is an in-depth treatment of the complicated interrelationship among its characters, but Trisha doesn't open up to the camera much more than to her mother or her wife, the older daughter is a poorly drawn character, and Trisha's mother spends most of the movie as a one-dimensional crabby old lady. Recommended; highly recommended for lesbian audiences.

The Summer of Sangailė: (in Lithuanian, with English subtitles) Sangailė is 17 years old, staying with her parents at their vacation home in the country and going to a local aerobatics show, where she meets Auste. The two are different in many important ways, but it's a case of opposites attract, and they spend more time with each other, opening up in ways that Sangailė especially hasn't with anyone in a very long time, particularly about her cutting herself. (Note that the scenes involving self-harm are suggestive rather than explicit; in particular, you don't see the sharps actually break the skin.) It's a serious coming-of-age story, beautifully filmed. Highly recommended.

Together Forever: (short that screened with Portrait of a Serial Monogamist) A lesbian couple seeks to create the perfect moment for a proposal. Very well done, and a teaser for a feature-length film, Brides to Be, currently in development. Highly recommended.

Two 4 One: Adam gets a call from his former lesbian lover Miriam (Adam is a transman, by the way), who is desperate for someone to help her with the process of artificial insemination. The mail-order sperm has arrived and won't keep, so Adam reluctantly re-enters the mælstrom of the relationship that ended when he came out as transgender. One thing leads to another, and Adam winds up pregnant, making his determination to distance himself from Miriam more complicated, and also complicating his situation at his new job in a very "dudebro" construction engineering company. There are some good laughs, but also some nuanced insights. Adam is a fully fleshed out character, with his transition only one facet of his life. MUST SEE.

A Woman Like Me: A filmmaker learns that she has terminal metastatic breast cancer, so she reacts in a typically filmmaker-ish fashion: let's make a film about this. She begins writing a fictionalized rendering of the events, with a version of herself who has a somewhat sunnier disposition and prognosis, but comes to realize that the fictional film would better serve as a framework for a documentary about her actual process. She is very open and vulnerable in showing the process of coming to terms with her impending mortality, and the husband and young daughter she will leave behind. We go with her to doctors and New Age healers, as she explores all of her treatment options and works to keep a positive attitude and a sense of humor in the face of death. MUST SEE.

The Yes Men are Revolting: The Yes Men are a duo of prankster activists, known for posing as representatives of corporations and government agencies to shed light on the deplorable policies of the real entities they caricature. We see some of the behind-the-scenes work, complicated by the fact that one of the Yes Men, Mike Bonanno, is married with two kids and moved to Scotland, but they carry on, taking their activism to Uganda, Canada, and the global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Mike's partner-in-funny-business Andy Bichlbaum, wonders how to carry on with Mike's attention divided, and also openly wonders whether the Yes Men's style of activism can really make a difference on a worldwide scale. This documentary is both wonderfully enjoyable and viscerally inspiring that small actions, multiplied around the world by people power, can push the agenda of real change. MUST SEE.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Notes for the East Bay

Monday through Thursday of this week, Frameline 39 will be screening a total of 16 programs in the East Bay, at the Elmwood Theatre in Berkeley and the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland. It looks to me like the programs at the Elmwood are the stronger set, overall, but there are some good choices at either venue.

On Monday, June 22, Jenni Olson's The Royal Road is playing at 7:00 at the Elmwood. It's a quiet, contemplative documentary about El Camino Real and the history of Spanish colonization of California, interwoven with a fictional (but partly autobiographical) personal story of relationships up and down the California coast, all told through the voiceover narration of footage almost devoid of human activity. If you want explosions and chase scenes, wait for Terminator Genisys next month, but if you want a tranquil yet thought-provoking meditation, check out The Royal Road.

At 9:30 at the Elmwood is The Yes Men are Revolting, a documentary about political pranksters trying to make the world a better place. It's inspiring, hilarious, and definitely a must see.

Meanwhile, at the Piedmont, the 7:00 show is Stories of Our Lives, an anthology of short films from Kenya about homophobia. I haven't had the opportunity to screen it in advance, but it sounds like a compelling program. The 9:00 show is the beautiful Venezuelan lesbian drama Liz in September, which is also a must see, although it conflicts directly with Yes Men. For my money, pick either theatre and go for both shows.

On Tuesday, the Elmwood hosts two films I haven't seen yet, but that sound interesting. Welcome to this House, Elizabeth Bishop is a documentary about the subject of Frameline 37's Reaching for the Moon. Love Island (Otok Ijubavi) is a lesbian love story set in the former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the Piedmont has the shorts program Realness & Revelations and the feature film Margarita, with a Straw, which I found disappointing. I'd pick the Elmwood for Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Elmwood has the must-see documentary El Canto del Colibrí about Latino immigrant fathers' paths to acceptance of their LGBT children, and Sworn Virgin (Vergine giurata), a drama about a tomboy who grows up in Albania to live as a man, but then moves to Italy, where gender roles are less rigid, and begins to explore a more authentic identity. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds interesting. Meanwhile, the Piedmont has an "Aussie crime caper" called All about E and episodes 6–10 of Dyke Central, a local web series set in the East Bay. El Canto is my pick for Wednesday, especially for Latin@ LGBT folks whose parents are less than accepting, but East Bay lesbians and their friends will probably have a great time at Dyke Central.

Finally, Thursday at the Elmwood features sports documentary Game Face and the Canadian transgender romcom Two 4 One. The Piedmont has a Thai documentary about what translates approximately to butch and femme lesbians, Visible Silence, and François Ozon's new feature The New Girlfriend. Having made the mistake of watching a couple of Ozon's previous films, I will never watch anything with his name on it again. Two 4 One is definitely my pick of the four, with Visible Silence the runner-up, but I'm definitely biased against both sports documentaries and François Ozon. There's enough of a gap between the screenings that you could even do Visible Silence at 7:00 at the Piedmont and Two 4 One at 9:30 at the Elmwood, certainly if you have a car.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I am Michael

It's an almost impossible juggling act for a proudly gay director to make a balanced, unbiased film about a self-made ex-gay who says that gays will go to hell unless they take God's true path of heterosexuality. "I am Michael" portrays its subject with gentle compassion, and yet leaves you with the unmistakable impression that he's a narcissist with at least a couple of screws loose. James Franco captures the inner turmoil and quest for peace of a man struggling to reconcile diametrically opposed facets of his life, while Zachary Quinto & Charlie Carver as his ex-lovers both wish for Michael to find happiness and reject his newfound anti-gay dogma. The film opens a conversation about gay identity, Christian identity, and the attempt to find an intersection, but doesn't try to wrap up neatly packaged answers in 100 minutes. Highly recommended.

[links and pretty pictures and such will be added when I get the chance, probably after the festival ends]

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Frameline39 Advance Reviews

Here are quick summary reviews of films I've seen that will be appearing at the #Frameline39 festival beginning tomorrow. The reviews are listed in order by the screening time. If I am able to add more to this list, I will indicate the new additions with a bullet • before the title.

Thursday, June 18

A Escondidas (Hidden Away), 10:00p Castro (see also 6/26): MUST SEE! A Spanish boy and a Moroccan immigrant boy bond over water polo. You can feel Rafa's intense longing for Ibra and the conflict he feels with his racist coach and teammates. It's a good story and a well-made film.

Friday, June 19

Thirst & Desire (shorts), 1:30p Castro: Highly recommended. The program starts with four strong shorts, including one with the voice of Zachary Quinto (Spock in the rebooted Star Trek movies). The last two shorts I was less impressed with. Definitely worth seeing, but don't feel bad if you need to leave a little early.

Liz en septiembre (Liz in September), 7:00p Castro (see also 6/22): MUST SEE! Beautiful lesbian drama, based on the play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, re-set in Venezuela. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Naz & Maalik, 7:00 Victoria (see also 6/22): Highly recommended. Naz and Maalik are two black Muslim teenagers living in Brooklyn, New York, hanging out, hawking lottery tickets, candy, and other items on the streets and subways to make a little money, and secretly more than just friends. They come under FBI surveillance following a chance encounter with a shady cop, ruining their afternoon and threatening to throw open their closet doors to their families and friends. The dialogue is mostly mundane, but the action illuminates the cross-currents between Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia in post-9/11 America.

Those People, 9:30p Castro: MUST SEE! Charlie, a young Jewish painter, has struggled with his unrequited love for his friend Sebastian (the son of a character who sounds a lot like Bernie Madoff), but then he meets a Lebanese pianist named Tim. (If the names Charles and Sebastian ring a bell, yes, it's an homage to Brideshead Revisited.) It's excellent, subtle, and nuanced, with laugh-out-loud moments and a real sense of Charlie's inner conflict, without wallowing in angst or self-pity.

Saturday, June 20

Fun in Boys Shorts (shorts), 11:00a Castro (see also 6/28): MUST SEE! The first five of this year's FIBS are all top-notch, but the sixth, One Year Lease, is the weakest of the eight, and the last two are only so-so.

Olya's Love, 11:00a Roxie: Highly recommended. Two infectiously effervescent young Moscow lesbians keep up the fight against Vladimir Putain's anti-gay "propaganda" laws. We get to see their private lives and their public activism. Very well made. In Russian with English subtitles. (I was not able to screen the short Victory Day that precedes the feature documentary.)

Fun in Girls Shorts (shorts), 1:30p Castro (see also 6/28): Recommended. This year's FIGS are a little more of a mixed bag. The third film, 11 Life Lessons from an Awesome Old Dyke, is the stand-out, and they're all at least pretty good. (Note: Playing with Balls was not available for early review, and the review copy of Carina was corrupted.)

El canto del colibrí, 1:30p Roxie (see also 6/24): MUST SEE! Latino immigrant fathers of LGBT children discuss their paths to acceptance. The parents had varying levels of challenges, particularly cultural expectations of machismo and the attitude of the Catholic church towards LGBT people, but all of them eventually embraced their children. This film is especially recommended for LGBT Latinos whose families are less accepting, but it is an emotionally moving tribute to the power of love, for all audiences. In Spanish with English subtitles. The title translates as "The song of the hummingbird." (A short film, Mamis: A Family Portrait, accompanies the screening, but was not available for early review.)

Tab Hunter Confidential, 4:00p Castro: MUST SEE! Tab Hunter was a "boy next door" type with a pretty face, but he could also sing, ride horses, and (eventually) act. He was outed by his former manager to protect another client by the name of Rock Hudson, and he also had a relationship with Anthony Perkins. There are far more facets to this intriguing life than you'd guess from the pin-ups of the 1950's teen magazines.

Dyke Central episodes 6–10, 4:00p Victoria (see also 6/24): I didn't get a chance to see episodes 6–10, but on the strength of episodes 1–5 last year, I'll recommend the next installment. Episode 1 was a bit of a "diamond in the rough," but already by episode 5 it had gotten noticeably more polished, so fans should be pleased if the new batch is truly "better than ever."

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), 7:00 p Castro: Highly recommended. Thailand has a military draft lottery for 21-year-olds. We meet Oat, about to have his own lottery day, and flash back to when he was 11 and his openly gay brother Ek faced the same requirement. Ek was dating the son of an influential local figure in the black market; his boyfriend Jai was protected by his father, but Ek had no such option. The bond between the brothers (orphans living at the time on the margins of Bangkok with their aunt and cousin) comes across on the screen, as does Oat's desperate determination to keep Ek safe.

Sunday, June 21

That's Not Us, 6:30p Castro: Highly recommended. Three couples (one lesbian, one gay, and one straight) celebrate the end of summer on Fire Island, sharing a cottage together. Each relationship is experiencing its own unique challenges: the lesbians have stopped having sex (making listening to the straight couple going at it at every opportunity, especially awkward); the straight couple have a competitive streak that sometimes gets in the way of real intimacy; and the gay couple are standing at a fork in the road as one of them considers going away to grad school. Several other tidbits get thrown into the soup for a romantic comedy with some notable insights.

Monday, June 22

Naz & Maalik, 4:15p Castro (see 6/19 above)

Liz en Septiembre (Liz in September), 9:00p Piedmont (see 6/19 above)

Tuesday, June 23

En la gama de los grises (In the Grayscale), 7:00p Victoria (see also 6/28): Highly recommended. A coming out story that's not set in a school! Bruno is a 35-year-old architect, married with a son, but he's feeling the need for some time apart to rethink his life. Through his work, Bruno meets Fer, and they both feel a strong connection, in terms of both intellectual compatibility and physical desire. As the story unfolds, we see Bruno try to come to terms with a life not in sharp black and white, but in shades of gray.

Guidance, 9:30p Castro: MUST SEE! David Gold is a washed-up former Canadian child TV star, running out of options to get enough money to pay the rent and/or buy more liquor. He decides to take on a serious acting challenge: pretending to be qualified to be a high school guidance counselor. He finds a school desperate enough not to verify his identity, leading to what I can only describe as Degrassi on acid. Very funny, and yet it also manages to sneak in some insight into the psyches of teenagers and grown-ups who still act like teens.

Margarita, with a Straw, 9:30p Piedmont (see also 6/27): Not recommended. I watched the first half of this film in Toronto, right up to the point where they introduced the pivotal character, but the first half moved so slowly I couldn't be bothered to stay until the end.

Wednesday, June 24

The Amina Profile, 4:00p Castro: Recommended. Just as the "Arab Spring" of 2011 was gearing up, a blog called "A Gay Girl in Damascus" went viral, until people began asking real questions about "Amina," the blogger. This documentary explores the story, including with a woman who believed she had a real relationship with Amina. It's a wild story, one that I find especially compelling as an occasional political blogger, but the documentary just didn't draw me in as much as I hoped.

El canto del colibrí, 7:00 Elmwood (see 6/20 above)

Dyke Central, 9:30 Piedmont (see 6/20 above)

Thursday, June 25

Eisenstein in Guanajuato, 6:30p Castro: MUST SEE! Sergei Eisenstein (Сергей Михайлович Эйзенштейн) was a world-famous film director in the early years of the Soviet Union. In 1930, Eisenstein traveled to Mexico to make a film, financed with the help of Upton Sinclair. Eisenstein in Guanajuato is a surrealistic look at this episode in his life, and particularly his relationship with his Mexican guide. To sum it up in five words: Weird, weird, weird, sexy, WEIRD.

To Russia with Love, 7:00p Victoria: MUST SEE! The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, presented gay athletes with a dilemma. Vladimir Putain had pushed through increasingly aggressive anti-gay legislation in the name of protecting the children. The Olympics have traditionally valued inclusiveness, but also frowned upon any sort of political expression in the games. So what is a gay athlete to do in Putin's Sochi? A documentary crew went along with Johnny Weir, Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis, and others, as they tried to balance conflicting imperatives. We also get to meet some of the Russian gay activists who hoped for international support against their oppression. Weir is fabulous, even as he tries to remain apolitical, but we see his thinking begin to shift through the course of the filming.

Friday, June 26

Worldly Affairs (shorts), 4:00p Castro: Highly recommended. I was only able to review three of the four shorts in this program, but they're all strong films, so definitely recommended.

A Escondidas (Hidden Away), 7:00p Victoria, (see 6/18 above)

54: the Director's Cut, 9:00p Castro: MUST SEE! Whether or not you saw the 1998 theatrical release of 54, you should see the director's cut. The distributor forced changes to water down the gayness, the sexiness, and the drug use, but the director has managed to restore much of the footage to create a far more interesting film.

Saturday, June 27

Margarita, with a Straw, 6:30p Roxie (see 6/23 above)

Sunday, June 28

Fun in Girls Shorts, 11:00a Castro, (see 6/20 above)

Fun in Boys Shorts, 1:30p Castro (see 6/20 above)

En la gama de los grises (In the Grayscale), 4:00p Castro (see 6/23 above)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Inside Out, seen so far

I don't have time to post full reviews, but I'll at least let y'all/yousuns/you know what is coming as I struggle to catch up on both sleep and blogging. [UPDATED: Friday 2015-05-29; bolded titles will appear in Frameline 39, except "54" which appeared in the SFIFF.]

Seen so far:
  • Grandma [Lily Tomlin!]
  • Mixed Shorts: Teenage Dream
  • Jess & James
  • Those People
  • Tab Hunter Confidential
  • Lesbian Shorts: She Loves Me
  • Hidden Away
  • Eisenstein in Guanajuato [had to choose between this one or "Fresno," but I hope to see it at Frameline next month]
  • That's Not Us
  • (skipped My Life in Pink / Ma vie en rose, but it's wonderful; you should see it if you haven't)
  • Gay Shorts: One Night Only
  • Coming In [Marco Kreuzpaintner and Kostja Ullman and Hanno Koffler; (swoon!)]
  • What We Have
  • In the Grayscale
  • Everlasting Love (Amor eterno) plus a short
  • Gay Shorts: Secrets & Guys
  • How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)
  • Don't Accept Dreams from Strangers
  • Fourth Man Out [Chord Overstreet!]
  • The Amina Profile
  • Guidance
  • She's Beautiful when She's Angry
  • Butterfly
  • Margarita, with a Straw
Coming up:
  • A Sinner in Mecca
  • Gay Shorts: A Hard Man is Good to Find
  • Liz in September
  • Gay Shorts: Drama Queens
  • To Russia with Love [Johnny Weir!!]
  • [skipping the dinner movies, but I saw the new director's fabulously successful overhaul recut of "54," last month at the San Francisco IFF, and will see former Frameline staffer Jenni Olson's "The Royal Road" with a hometown audience in San Francisco at Frameline next month.]
  • Portrait of a Serial Monogamist [again in the Rush line, but I am determined!]
Films I'm missing at Inside Out 25 that will also be at Frameline 39 in San Francisco in June:
  • Stories of Our Lives
  • Fresno
  • While You Weren't Looking
  • Naz & Maalik
  • Seed Money: the Chuck Holmes Story
  • Seashore
  • Two 4 One [sorry I'm missing seeing it in Toronto, though!]
  • Welcome to this House

I've been taking notes on the films I see, but I've been so overwhelmed by the process of trying (so far unsuccessfully!) to turn my WiFi paperweight back into a smartphone, and thus haven't had time to type them up, add piccies and links, and all that jazz. Thus, I will have to try to sustain the momentum to post the reviews after the close of the festival. I've certainly seen some fabulous films, and the worst of the whole list so far at Inside Out's 25th anniversary festival, was only "meh," not "ptui!" let alone "Harper me gently with a chainsaw!" [Canadian political humor, but haven't been able to find a link to it]. I saw an incredibly rare feat: a program of five short films where I rated all five 5/5, and the venue (TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto) was literally designed to host film festivals, plus it's walking distance to the downtown GO station. No shuttling from the Roxie to the Castro and back, just occasionally switching from Theatre 1 to Theatre 2 or 3. Guest WiFi throughout the building. I used to fantasise about building a multi-screen cinema to host festivals, but Toronto went and actually did it.

If you see a fiftyish man at Inside Out this weekend (2015-05-30 and -31), about 186cm/6'1", wearing the vest of many pocketses and a necklace of bells over a Frameline t-shirt, that's probably moi, so say hi.

Monday, May 25, 2015

San Francisco festival fan at Inside Out

I am in Toronto, Canada, for the Inside Out LGBT film festival's 25th anniversary, and having a wonderful time. I'm hoping in the next few days (while I have my afternoons free!) to catch up with reviewing the nine programs I've seen so far. That means I'll have previews of several titles that will be in the Frameline 39 festival in San Francisco next month. If you happen to be at Inside Out this week, you'll recognise me by the necklace of bells and the vest of many pocketses. I'll be here all week.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Salvation Army (L'armée du salut)

Salvation Army (L'armée du salut), dir. Abdellah Taïa, France, 2013, 82 min., French and Arabic with English subtitles
NOT RECOMMENDED • SPOILER ALERT
Friday, June 20, 9:30 pm @ Victoria
Friday, June 27, 7:00 pm @ Roxie

Said Mrini (L) as young Abdellah
Salvation Army (L’armee du salut) is the semi-autobiographical story of Abdellah, a Moroccan boy coming of age in a society that is not welcoming of homosexuality, besides which he has to deal with a physically abusive father, a mother who consults with a sorceress for a magic amulet to cast spells over family members, and his own more-than-fraternal affection for his brother. We see Abdellah as a teen, a neurotic mess of a mama’s boy, going on a road trip with his brother and disappearing for the occasional rendez-vous with a local shopkeeper. We then flash forward ten years, to Abdellah accompanying a Swiss tourist, not translating all of his conversation with the conniving local boatman who is taking them on a sightseeing trip. Flash forward another four months to find Abdellah in Geneva with no money and no place to stay, waiting for a scholarship that he has won but can’t yet access. He runs into his tourist friend at the university, but has a bizarre interaction with him, and Abdellah’s actions and motivations are completely opaque. He finally winds up at a Salvation Army hostel with other immigrants, sharing an orange and a song with another Moroccan, at which point the film just ends. The whole story is an episodic unveiling of a character whom we never really see from his own internal perspective, even when we are alone with him in his private moments. There are some interesting bits, but the film doesn't cohere as a whole. Meh; not recommended.

IMDb pageclip from the film (with English subtitles) •

Five Dances

Five Dances, dir. Alan Brown, USA, 2013, 88 min.
Friday, June 20, 7:00 pm @ Victoria

Theo (Reed Luplau) and
Chip (Ryan Steele)
It’s wonderful to watch five lovely and talented dancers develop a dance routine, going through the long, hard work of making it all look effortless, in Five Dances. The elegance and grace of their dance moves is not always matched by their personal lives, which can be a bit messy, from main character Chip’s over-the-top clinging mother to the shifting liaisons among members of the group. Chip wrestles with Theo’s aggressive come-ons, but eventually succumbs (and something similar sounding), while trying to figure out how to live in New York City as a starving student. The interpersonal dramas alone wouldn’t be enough to raise Five Dances above the middle of the pack, but the dance scenes are poetry in motion, and we get to watch the dancers collaborate to develop the choreography even as they make their way through the mundanity of life. Ryan Steele (of Newsies and Matilda on Broadway) is a standout in his film debut. Highly recommended, and a must see if you’re a serious fan of modern dance.

Director Alan Brown also made Frameline35’s Private Romeo, a Film Queen “must see.”
IMDb pageOfficial websiteofficial Facebook pagetrailer • watch the full movie on Wolfe on Demand • now available on DVD

Stand

Stand, dir. Jonathan Taleb, France, 2014, 87 min., in Russian with English subtitles
NOTE: this film contains graphic depictions of homophobic violence
Friday, June 20, 4:00 pm @ Castro (World premiere!)
Sunday, June 29, 4:15 pm @ Castro

Anton (Renat Shuteev) and
Vlad (Andrey Kurganov)
Stand is the story of two Russian gay men, Anton and Vlad, horrified by the acts of violence against gay men in their community. Someone is luring men out into the countryside to be beaten half to death, all so the beatings can be uploaded to YouTube for the amusement of homophobes everywhere. They drift along until one evening they drive by what appears to be a gay bashing in progress, spurring them into action as amateur detectives, trying to learn who is behind this wave of violence. Going to the police is not a viable option, because the police are as virulently homophobic as the gay bashers, more likely to lock up the victims than to try to find the attackers. However, Anton is obsessed with their sleuthing, to a level that frightens Vlad almost as much as the bashings. It’s an engaging drama, with cute actors (Renat Shuteev looks more than a little like a twenty-something Johnny Depp), and it bravely wrangles with topical subject matter. Viewers get a palpable sense of the nightmare of living in Vladimir Putin’s gay-scapegoating Russia. Recommended.

IMDb pageofficial Facebook page (en/ru/fr) • official Twitter • trailer (English subtitles) (YouTubeVimeo) • официальный тизер #1 (русская версия) (YouTubeVimeo) •