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)

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