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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

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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) •

Shadows & Secrets (shorts program)

Shadows & Secrets” (shorts program)
  • An Exchange, dir. Bryce Woodworth, USA, 2013, 13 min.
  • Dawn, dir. Leon Le, USA, 2012, 10 min.
  • Jason’s Dad, dir. Matthew Campea, Canada, 2013, 13 min.
  • Nomansland, dir. Karsten Geisnæs, Denmark, 2013, 35 min., in Danish with English subtitles
  • OVO, dir. Alban Sapin, France, 2012, 18 min., in French with English subtitles
Friday, June 20, 1:15 pm, Castro Theatre

An Exchange
In An Exchange, a conservative “family values” kind of guy hires a masseur to come to his hotel room, but he wants more than just a massage, but with more than a little twist on the usual “happy ending.” It’s pretty well done, worth seeing. RECOMMENDED.

(Note: in pre-production, and in the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for the film, the working title was Venus in Furs.)

IMDb page

Feriado (Holiday)

Feriado (Holiday), dir. Diego Araujo, Ecuador, 2013, 82 min., in Spanish with English subtitles
Juampi (Juan Manuel Arregui) and
Juano (Diego Andrés Paredes)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thursday, June 19, 10:00 pm, Castro Theatre
Monday, June 23, 1:00 pm, Castro Theatre

Feriado (Holiday) is set during a banking crisis in Ecuador in 1999. The main character, Juampi (short for Juan Pablo), is the teenage nephew of a bank official who is implicated in a corruption scandal that is causing massive disruption to the national economy. Juampi and his mother travel to the family hacienda in the mountains for the  holiday, staying with his aunt and uncle and cousins. Juampi is a reluctant participant, not least because his cousins are glad to see him only because he can serve as the designated victim for their new bullying techniques. One night, Juampi meets Juano, a young man from the town near the hacienda, and they begin a complicated friendship that it's clear neither young man fully understands. It's not nearly as simple as "Juampi comes out as gay and they live happily ever after." Juampi saves Juano from a beating at the hands of his uncle's bodyguards, and is drawn closer to him, with awakening feelings he hasn't ever had the freedom to explore. Juano likes going to parties or swimming in the river or talking about heavy metal music with Juampi, but seems to be unaware of other dimensions to Juampi's experience. We get to come along for the ride for the first stage in Juampi's voyage of self-discovery, but with many of the questions left unanswered. It's a beautiful coming-of-age tale, and a great first feature with a great performance by the first-time actor in the lead role. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

IMDb page • Official website (SpanishEnglish) • Facebook page

The Case Against 8

The Case Against 8, dirs. Ben Cotner and Ryan White, USA, 2013, 109 minutes
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thursday, June 19, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre
premiered June 23 on HBO

The Prop 8 plaintiffs (L to R):
Kris Perry, Sandy Stier,
Paul Katami, Jeff Zarrillo
The Case Against 8 is a documentary about the landmark US Supreme Court case that struck down California's Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage in California as exclusively one man and one woman. I'll say a little bit more about the legal issues below, but the documentary mostly chronicles the human story of the plaintiffs (Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo), two same-sex couples, and their legal team, headed by the lawyers who represented George W. Bush and Al Gore at the Supreme Court in the case that decided the 2000 Presidential election. The filmmakers had extraordinary access to the plaintiffs, the lawyers, and many other people involved in the effort, as the case slowly progressed from federal district court to the appeals court and finally to the US Supreme Court.

Frameline 38 Reviews Coming Soon

The #Frameline38 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival has wrapped up, complete with the after party and awards announcements. I will be posting full reviews of the 37 programs I attended in person, plus 4 that I was able to screen on DVD, plus any that I can get my hands on post-festival, over the next couple of weeks, but first I'm going to sleep in and enjoy a little outdoor sunshine before I plunge back into the blog.

Here is a partial full! list of the winners:
  • Audience Award, Best Feature: The Way He Looks (Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho), dir. Daniel Ribeiro
  • Audience Award, Best Documentary: Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank, dirs. Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler
  • Audience Award, Best Short Film: Black is Blue, dir. Cheryl Dunye
  • Wells Fargo First Feature Award, Honorable Mention: Lilting (轻轻摇晃), dir. Hong Khaou
  • Wells Fargo First Feature Award: Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder), dir. Ester Martin
  • Jury Award for Achievement in Documentary, Honorable Mention: Regarding Susan Sontag, dir. Nancy Kates
  • Jury Award for Achievement in Documentary: Kumu Hina, dirs. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson
  • Frameline Volunteer of the Year Award for Best First Feature: Anita's Last Cha-cha, dir. Sigrid Bernardo

My personal prize for best surprise of a thoroughly strange but wonderfully fun film was You and the Night (Les rencontres d'après minuit), dir. Yann Gonzalez.

(Updated June 30 with full list of award winners)
(Note: the reviews of films are being backdated to June 30, to keep them all together on the site.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Frameline 38: Quick update #2

The Hawai'ian documentary Kumu Hina screens at the Rialto Elmwood in Oakland at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow (Monday) night.

The other miscellaneous screener that I've been able to watch is Cupcakes, a comedy from Israeli director Eytan Fox. It's about a group of friends who post a YouTube video of an impromptu, improvised song, and wind up being the Israeli national entry in the Universong contest (a thinly veiled Eurovision). As with Eurovision, the music at Universong is mostly kitschy bubble gum stuff, and the film is similar in character, but it's very well done and good fun. Highly recommended.

Today, I saw 20 Lies, 4 Parents and a Little Egg (20 Leugens, 4 ouders en een scharrelei), a Dutch made-for-TV movie about a 15-year-old boy shuttled between his lesbian moms and his biological father and his husband. It's very cute, well done, highly recommended. It will screen again on Saturday, June 28 at 1:30 at the Victoria Theatre.

I then saw Generations: Youth and Elders Making Movies, the annual shorts program centered on pieces made in Tilt, a local program that teams up younger and older folks and teaches them filmmaking. Some pretty good stuff.

Last up for today was Blackbird, based on the novel by Larry Duplechan, adapted by Patrik-Ian Polk (Noah's Arc) with help from Rikki Beadle Blair (Metrosexuality), plus star/producers Isaiah Washington and Mo'Nique. A distribution deal is still being worked out, but it definitely has the star power to make it to a wider audience than just film festivals.

Longer reviews will be posted when I get a chance, but I'm down with a cold at the moment, so y'all will just have to wait.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Frameline 38 Begins!

The Frameline 38 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival has begun. I will be posting full reviews of as many films as I can, but for now, a few sketchy impressions will have to do.

The opening night film was a wonderful documentary about the legal fight to overturn California's Proposition 8, passed in 2008 and finally laid to rest almost exactly a year ago, thanks to a case argued by Ted Olson and David Boies (the lawyers who were on opposite sides of December 2000's Bush v. Gore) on behalf of two couples who wanted to get married. The documentary footage is the skillful fusion of an eloquent and concise exposition of the legal particulars and an honest portrait of the people at the center of the fight, with their honest thoughts and feelings as the case progressed through trial and appeals. HBO will be running The Case Against 8 beginning Monday, June 23, 2014, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. Strongly recommended, a must-see.

Opening night wrapped with Holiday (Feriado) a coming-of-age film about a teenaged boy in Ecuador. It's quirky, set in an especially off-kilter moment in Ecuadorian history, during a nationwide banking crisis, but the main character has an engaging sweetness to match his poet's soul, even as he navigates some difficult emotional terrain, not just coming to terms with his sexual feelings. Strongly recommended.

Friday morning, I saw "Shadows & Secrets," a shorts program with five films about mysterious circumstances. One stand-out was O.V.O., a frightening dystopian view of where ultra-right politics might once again lead the world. The film is deliberately vague about when and where it is set, because no society is completely immune to extremism. The other stand-out was Nomansland, an emotionally powerful exploration of the conflict between a gay man and his dead lover's homophobic family.

Next up was Stand, a film set in present-day Russia, where two gay men witness an apparent gay bashing and decide to investigate for themselves, since the police are likely to be more sympathetic to the bashers than to their past or potential future victims. It's very dark, and contains scenes of graphic violence, but it's an important story to tell. Vladimir Putin has plenty of company, in Russia and elsewhere, in his willingness to scapegoat the gay population.

For the evening yesterday, I went for a bit more of a crowd-pleaser, the beautiful Five Dances. Much of the footage of the film is a company of five dancers developing and rehearsing over several weeks the choreography for an important piece. The dancers are all beautiful in still photos, but it is in movement that they are truly exquisite. The emotional story threaded through the dance scenes is well crafted and satisfying, too, rounding out a fine film. It will be available streaming or on DVD from Wolfe Video in July 2014.

My nightcap for Friday was Salvation Army, which takes an episodic look at a young Moroccan man, first in his early teens and then flashing forward ten years, and then a further four months. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the glimpses we get of his life give us much more than a superficial understanding of who he is or what drives him. I was disappointed, and don't much recommend this film. It's unlikely to be the worst film I see this year, but I would put it solidly below the median. However, if you want to find out for yourself, it will repeat on Friday, June 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the Roxie Theatre.

Today, I started with "Fun in Boys Shorts" and "Fun in Girls Shorts," because unfortunately the great majority of the shorts in those programs were not available on the press screeners this year. Thus, I am unable to report on Purple Skies (documentary about India) or Bad Hair (a story about an effeminate boy in Venezuela), because I missed those screenings for FIBS and FIGS.

All eight of the boys and all nine of the girls were good, but in FIBS the crowd favorite as well as my own was Cruising Electric (1980), an homage to the TV ads of that era with a hilarious gay twist. I also especially liked Slash, a story about Harry Potter and Star Trek "slash" fan fiction, and MeTube: August Sings Carmen "Habanera", which is a brilliantly demented fantasy of what YouTube ought to be. Stand-outs from FIGS: First Clue, womyn-in-the-park answers to the question of not just when you "knew," but what was your first clue; What's Your Sign? which shows us two lesbians who act like stereotypical cruisy gay men but in the process give a little bit of a language lesson; and Stop Calling Me Honey Bunny, which was laugh-out-loud funny.

"Fun in Girls Shorts" runs again on Sunday, June 29 (Pride Sunday) at 11:00 a.m., followed by "Fun in Boys Shorts" at 1:30 p.m.; both are definitely "must-see" this year.

Saturday afternoon was a documentary (with staged recreations of events from a half century ago mixed with more recent interviews of some of the actual participants) about The Circle (Der Kreis), a Swiss organization and publication that, for a while, were a beacon of hope for gay men during and after World War II. Zürich provided a haven for gay men for a while, until three murders focused public attention on The Circle, leading the police to throw them under the metaphorical bus. Good news, though, with only the barest of spoiler alerts: two of the interviewees became the first same-sex couple legally married in Switzerland, in 2003. Highly recommended.

Through the magic of quantum physics, or perhaps with the help of a DVD screener, I managed to simultaneously watch six episodes of Dyke Central, a drama/sitcom set in a house in Oakland. The characters are varied and multi-dimensional, and already by episode six many of the "rough edges" in the production values were significantly improved. These are underrepresented voices that are standing up to be heard, and you should tune in. Highly recommended.

Next up is Kidnapped for Christ, an amazing documentary about a Christian boarding school in the Dominican Republic that specializes in forcibly removing "troubled" teens, including gay and lesbian teens with little evidence of any other "issues," to put them on a specific vision of the Biblical "straight and narrow." During the course of the filming, we watch the documentarian move from an evangelical appreciation of good Christians doing the work of God to serious difficulty reconciling what she saw and filmed with belief in Jesus Christ. Strongly recommended, a must-see.

Lastly for today, Helicopter Mom starts with a woman who leaves you thanking your lucky stars that your mother wasn't that bad, and her son, who is a senior in high school. The mother throws in some garden variety insane to leaven the persistent intrusiveness of her involvement in the minutiae of his life. It's certainly often utterly over the top, but there's some genuineness, too, not least the way the son has learned (clearly by necessity) to articulate clear boundaries to deal with a mother who basically has none. Strongly recommended, a must-see. Helicopter Mom has not yet been picked up for distribution, but I hope that will happen soon.

Tomorrow, you should go see Kumu Hina, a documentary about a Hawai'ian MTF who has found refuge in preserving and teaching traditional Hawai'ian culture. There's a tiny little clip of it in the festival trailer this year, but you should go see the whole thing. Hina is fascinating from many angles, from boyhood to womanhood, in her relationship to her students and the material she is teaching them, and in her sometimes difficult relationship with her husband, an ethnically Tongan man from Fiji.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Frameline37 2013 alpha cross-reference

Alphabetical list by title of films reviewed here in Film Queen Reviews from the 2013 Frameline37 International Lesbian/Gay Film Festival, San Francisco, California. All in all, I reviewed 21 narrative features, 12 full-length documentaries, 5 short documentaries, and 33 narrative shorts, for a total of 71 titles this year.

Click on “Read more” below for the full list.

Frameline 37: That’s a Wrap!

Ten days and eleven nights, a total of 38 screenings, plus one on my TiVo thanks to HBO. It’s taken longer to get all this fabulosity up on the blog than it took to watch the actual festival, but I’m finally all caught up. I saw some life-changingly wonderful films, and only one pure stinker. Partly from being a little less adventurous in my selections this year (just say NO!! to “experimental” films), partly from having some years back shed my inhibition about walking out of a film I really don’t like, but mostly from the strong upward trajectory of all corners of queer cinema, the average quality of the works I saw was impressive. I’ll just wrap up with a couple of cross-reference postings, and then begin my long winter’s hibernation until it is again time to spend the sunniest days of the year cooped up in a darkened movie theater.

Frameline award-winners:
  • Best Feature Film (audience award): Reaching for the Moon
  • Best Documentary (audience award): The New Black (not reviewed)
  • Best Short Film (audience award): dik
  • Best First Feature (jury prize): Out in the Dark; honorable mention: Concussion
  • Outstanding Documentary (jury prize): Valentine Road (not reviewed); honorable mentions: The New Black (not reviewed), Big Joy
My own favorites:
One other odd little sidebar: I only saw one program at the Roxie this year, an all-time low for me, and only five at the Victoria. That means that 32 of the 38 screenings I attended were at the Castro, and that’s only partly because of its monopoly on the weekday afternoon screenings.

G.B.F.

Tanner (Michael J. Willett) in the
bedroom of some girl whose name
is right on the tip of my tongue....
G.B.F., dir. Darren Stein, 2013, USA, 94 min. 
Sunday, June 30, 7:00 pm @ Castro (closing night film)

What is the fashion accessory that every teenage girl needs to be totally au courant? Why, of course, she needs a G.B.F., a Gay Best Friend! I was in my twenties when John Hughes chronicled every aspect of high school life, but from Sixteen Candles to The Breakfast Club to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we never once had the popular girls catfighting for the companionship of a G.B.F. Degrassi has had a number of gay characters, but never commoditized as social accoutrements. Not even Glee itself has answered the challenge, despite Tina’s efforts with Blaine. It’s about time to set the record straight — er, um, or something like that.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

He’s Way More Famous Than You

He’s Way More Famous than You, dir. Michael Urie, 2013, USA, 98 min. 
Saturday, June 29, 8:00 pm @ Castro

Halley Feiffer portraying herself
as a whiny, drunken loser.
Halley Feiffer, daughter of satirist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, had a small role in the 2005 indie film The Squid and the Whale. Despite about 20 acting credits since then, her career hasn’t exactly been a rocket to stardom.  In He’s Way More Famous than You, we meet a (hopefully heavily) fictionalized caricature of Halley, writing a screenplay as a vehicle for her comeback. She ropes in her (fictional) brother Ryan and his boyfriend Michael Urie (a real person, playing his caricatured self), plus an impressive list of Hollywood stars in cameo appearances. The caricature Michael Urie directs the film-within-a-film, while the real Michael Urie directed the whole thing.

Rebel

Rebel, dir. María Agui Carter, 2013, USA, 72 min.
Jeanne sous la pluie (Joan in the Rain), dir. Julie Meitz, 2012, France, 6 min., in French with English subtitles and English with French subtitles  [click “Read more” below]
Loreta Velázquez/Harry Buford
(fictional re-creation)

Rebel is the true story of a woman, Loreta Janeta Velázquez, born to a prominent family in Cuba, who moves to the southern United States just in time for the Civil War. Not content to sit on the sidelines while her husband went to war, Loreta created Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, a male soldier who fought in the battles of Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh, and also worked as a spy behind enemy lines, although she may have been a double- or even triple agent. She wrote a memoir after the war, although Confederate General Jubal Early denounced it as utter fiction, so it was not until many decades later that many of her claims were corroborated. The true story of Loreta/Harry is fascinating, but the documentary not quite as much so. In particular, many of the dramatic recreations run quite slow. Highly Recommended for Civil War history buffs and aficionados of real-life 19th-century drag kings, but a more equivocal Recommended for general audiences.

Burning Blue

Burning Blue, dir. DMW Greer, 2013, USA, 96 min. 
Saturday, June 29, 4:00 pm @ Victoria (world première)

Lynch helps Stephensen
after their plane goes down
For nearly 18 years, from 1993 until 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official policy of the United States military. In theory, a gay man or a lesbian could serve, as long as he or she did not tell anyone, except, of course that if you came out publicly for the specific purpose of getting out of the military, then you would be forced to stay in. Also, in practice, the military completely ignored the “don ’t ask” part of the policy, and actively pursued its witch hunt of more than 13,000 homosexuals in the military, including more than 3,000 from the U.S. Navy. That’s the backdrop for the story of former naval aviator DMW Greer’s Burning Blue, although he wrote the stage play on which it is based back in 1992.

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project, dir. Jonah Mossberg, 2013, USA, 72 min. 
Lovely, dir. Jennifer Maurer, 2012, USA, 17 min.  [click “Read more” below]
Saturday, June 29, 1:30 pm @ Victoria

As the small family farms of the 18th and 19th centuries gradually give way to the giant factory farms of the 20th and 21st, there is a small but notable counter-trend of small groups returning to the land and finding niche markets. These new farmers include new immigrants, women, people of color, and all flavors of queer people. Perhaps surprisingly, in many rural farming communities, the folks who have been doing this for generations are more pleased to see someone (anyone) carrying on the work of the land, than concerned about their other unaccustomed ways. Increasingly, though, small farms are sprouting and flourishing in or near big cities. Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project visits a smattering of farms from the Bronx and West Philly to rural Kansas and Alabama to a tiny goat farm right here in Berkeley. It’s an engaging story of another facet of the diversity of our LGBT family, and, to borrow a line from Stephen Colbert, Out Here provides food for thought as it encourages us to give a thought for our food. Highly recommended.

I Come from a Land Down Under (shorts)

I Come from a Land Down Under” (shorts program)
Saturday, June 29, 11:00 am @ Castro
  • Summer Suit, dir. Rebecca Peniston-Bird, 2013, Australia, 15 min. 
  • Gorilla, dir. Tim Marshall, 2012, Australia, 13 min. 
  • dik, dir. Christopher Stollery, 2012, Australia, 9 min. 
  • Kitty, dir. Cindy Dodkins, 2012, Australia, 6 min. 
  • Queen of the Desert, dir. Alex Kelly, 2012, Australia, 28 min. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Out in the Dark (עלטה • ظلام)

Out in the Dark (Alata/Dhalam) (עלטה / ظلام), dir. Michael Mayer (מיכאל מאיר), 2012, Israel, 96 min., in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 9:30 pm @ Castro (U.S. west coast première)

It’s a bit confusing if you say that Out in the Dark is a “smash hit,” because a different Michael Mayer is also a director on the U.S. TV series Smash, as well as having directed A Home at the End of the World [Frameline28, 2004, avail. on DVD]. Perhaps one day Frameline will have them both on stage at once, if only to prove they really aren’t the same person.

Roy (Michael Aloni, left)
and Nimr (Nicholas Jacob)
Out in the Dark (in Hebrew, Alata or עלטה) (in Arabic, Dhalam or ظلام) is the story of Roy (Michael Aloni • מיכאל אלוני), an Israeli lawyer, and Nimr (Nicholas Jacob • ניקולאס יעקוב), a Palestinian student, who meet in a Tel Aviv bar. Nimr snuck across the border from Ramallah for a taste of gay life, but he soon gets a permit to study at a university in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, the conflict over the Israeli occupation puts pressure on Nimr from all sides, with his brother preparing to defend his homeland while the thugs of the Israeli security apparatus try to blackmail Nimr into becoming an informant. Of course, Nimr’s family is obdurately anti-gay, as Nimr finds out to his horror one night, but Roy’s parents, while they’ve gotten past his coming out, don’t exactly rush to embrace Nimr. Roy gets upset that Nimr is keeping secrets from him, not understanding that Nimr genuinely has no choice. Although Israeli law and society are far more accepting of homosexuality than the Palestinians, the Israeli security police cynically blackmail gay Palestinians and then out them to their families as gay collaborators when they are no longer of any use to Israel. If Roy and Nimr are to stay together, they’re going to need a miracle.

Out in the Dark gives a nuanced portrayal of the two characters and their story, while pulling no punches in shining its light into some of the dark recesses of the injustices of both Israeli and Palestinian society. It’s a moving story, beautifully written, acted and filmed, and definitely worth seeking out. Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pageOfficial websiteFacebook pagetrailer

Reaching for the Moon (Flores Raras)

Flores Raras (Reaching for the Moon) (Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo), dir. Bruno Barreto, 2013, Brazil, 118 min., in English without subtitles and in Portuguese with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 6:45 pm @ Castro • U.S. west coast première

Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto)
at Lota’s home in Brazil
The opening title sequence of Reaching for the Moon has more logos than a NASCAR jacket, reflecting the participation of at least five production companies and several other outfits that had to be noted before the film begins. The title itself is a bit complex, too: the film is based on the novel Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares (Flores raras e banalíssimas: A história de Lota de Macedo Soares e Elizabeth Bishop) by Carmen Oliveira, English translation by Neil K. Besner. The original Brazilian title for the film was Flores raras, but IMDb indicates that it will be released in Brazil in August 2013 under the title Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo (in English, “You never said I love you”), as well as being released worldwide under the English title Reaching for the Moon. Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares were real people: the first a poet laureate of the United States and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the National Book Award, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; the latter an architect from a prominent family in Brazil. They really did have a long love affair in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but most of the day-to-day details are fictionalized.

Worldly Affairs (shorts)

Worldly Affairs” (shorts program)
Friday, June 28, 4:00 pm @ Castro

El acompañante (The Companion), dir. Álvaro Delgado Aparicio L., 2012, Peru, 20 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Summer Vacation (Hofesh Gadol • חופש גדול), dir. Tal Granit (טל גרנית) and Sharon Maymon (ושרון מימון), 2012, Israel, 22 min., in Hebrew with English subtitles 
For Dorian, dir. Rodrigo Barriuso, 2012, Canada, 16 min. 
Um Diálogo de Ballet (A Ballet Dialogue), dir. Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, 2012, Brazil, 8 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles
Maremoto (Seaquake), dir. Daniel Aratangy, 2012, Brazil, 8 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles U.S. première
Fødselsdagen (Happy Birthday), dir. Lasse Nielsen, 2013, Denmark, 24 min., in Danish with English subtitles  (American première)

Born This Way

Born This Way, dir. Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann, 2012, USA, 85 min., in French and English with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 1:30 pm @ Castro

The summer of 2013 has seen some major strides forward for gay rights in the United States, but the picture in much of the rest of the world is much less rosy. Born This Way takes a look at the struggles of the gay and lesbian community in Cameroon, a former French colony located right at the “knee bend” of Africa. We meet the tiny staff of Alternatives Cameroon, an advocacy group for gay rights and HIV prevention and treatment, and Alice Nkom, a lawyer who fights fearlessly for fair treatment in a country where homosexual acts are still punishable by up to five years in prison. Although the backdrop of societal and official homophobia is depressing, these brave activists bring hope that Cameroon may yet move into the light. Worth seeing, highly recommended.

IMDb pageFacebook page • information about Alternatives Cameroon • Facebook page for Alice Nkom

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beyond the Walls (Hors les murs)

Beyond the Walls (Hors les murs), dir. David Lambert, 2012, France, 98 min., in French and Albanian with English subtitles 
Thursday, June 27, 9:30 pm @ Castro

Guillaume Gouix (Ilir) and
Matila Malliarakis (Paulo)
Paulo, a young pianist, meets Ilir, a double-bass player originally from Albania. They fall deeply, madly in codependency, but try to convince themselves and the audience that it’s true love. Paulo impetuously tells his girlfriend (from whom he is mooching a place to live), so she kicks him out, and like a wounded bird with puppy-dog eyes he wheedles reluctant Ilir (who had clearly envisioned nothing more than a “no strings attached” quickie) into letting him move in. Paulo eventually promises eternal love and devotion to Ilir, who promptly disappears, turning up in prison. The constraints of prison visitation crimp, but do not end, their burgeoning codependency. How will the lost puppy survive without his big strong man, and how will his man survive in prison with the over-the-top public displays of affection in the visitation hall? If you’ve ever been tempted to “rescue” a down-on-his-luck street twink, this film stands as a cautionary tale for you; otherwise, don’t waste your time. Not recommended.

IMDb pageFacebook page

Hot Guys with Guns

Hot Guys with Guns, dir. Doug Spearman, 2013, USA, 103 min.
Thursday, June 27, 4:00 pm @ Castro (U.S. première)

Marc Anthony Samuel (L)
and Brian McArdle (R)
“Imagine Lethal Weapon if Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were ex-boyfriends,” says the tagline for Hot Guys with Guns. Curiously, though, on IMDb, you have to jump to “full cast and crew” to find out the names of the stars, since they don’t appear in the “credited cast.” Danny (Marc Anthony Samuel from General Hospital) is an actor-waiter who is taking an evening class for private investigators to research a part he’s planning to audition for. He starts stalking (umm, I mean, surveiling) Pip (newcomer Brian McArdle), a party boy who seems to have a knack for attending parties where the guests end up drugged and robbed. Since the party guests are more than a little publicity shy, they can’t involve the police, so it falls to Danny and Pip to do some real detective work and find the miscreants. I sat through almost half an hour before I decided I had better things to do than watch them solve the mystery. Not a horrible film, but I can’t recommend it.

IMDb pageOfficial website

Something Real (shorts)

Something Real” (shorts program)
Thursday, June 27, 1:45 pm @ Castro

Mia

Mía, dir. Javier van de Couter, 2010, Argentina, 105 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Thursday, June 27, 11:00 am @ Castro • U.S. première

Ale dines with friends
in the pink village
Ale (Camila Sosa Villada) scrapes by, scavenging, streetwalking, sewing, and doing odd jobs, living in Aldea Rosa, the pink village, a shantytown made by various gay and transgender outcasts on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but she is trying to improve herself, learning how to read. She finds the diary of a middle-class mother named Mía and finds herself drawn into their lives. In particular, she meets a young girl named Julia, becoming a surrogate mother to the girl despite the objections of her own friends and the girl’s father. We get to watch Ale come into herself as she nurtures Julia and pursues her own simply stated goal: Ser quien quiero ser, to be who I want to be. It’s an interesting and moving story, beautifully made, with a fairytale setup but not a storybook ending. Highly recommended.

IMDb page

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Battle of amfAR

The Battle of amfAR, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2013, USA, 40 min. , coming to HBO Dec. 2013
Entry Denied, dir. Machu Latorre, 2012, USA, 28 min.  [click “Read more” below]
Wednesday, June 26, 4:30 pm @ Castro
Dr. Mathilde Krim

Elizabeth Taylor testifying
to the U.S. Congress
In the 1980’s, AIDS came into public awareness, but Ronald Reagan was President, Jesse Helms was a powerful U.S. Senator, and it was nearly impossible to get any federal support for any research into the cause, treatment, or cure for AIDS. Dr. Mathilde Krim, a noted medical researcher as well as socialite and grandmother, teamed up with Elizabeth Taylor, a sometimes reluctant celebrity, to get private grant funding for vital research efforts through the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR. Dr. Krim had the medical bona fides, and Ms. Taylor had the unparalleled ability to draw public attention, making the team a force to be reckoned with.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman combine archival footage of Elizabeth Taylor with interviews with Dr. Mathilde Krim and others to form a compelling record of their groundbreaking collaboration and its significant achievements. Well done, highly recommended.