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.

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