Monday, June 25, 2018

Snapshots (2018 feature)

Snapshots, dir. Melanie Mayron, 2018 USA, 94 minutes 👏
Wednesday, June 20, 9:30 p.m. Elmwood (Berkeley)
Thursday, June 21, 6:30 p.m. Victoria

Snapshots:
Emily Goss (L) and
Emily Baldoni (R)
Three generations of women (grandmother Rose [Piper Laurie; Shannon Collis in the flashback scenes], mother Patty [Brooke Adams], and daughter Allison [Emily Baldoni]) gather at the Rose’s lakeside cot­tage for a weekend. Patty’s husband has recently died, and she is turning to the bottle for solace. Allison is newly married and facing some difficult issues in that relationship. Allison found Rose’s old camera with a roll of exposed film in it, so she had the film developed; the prints take Rose back to her twenties (late 1950s and early 60s) when she and her hus­band bought the cabin and met bold and brazen redhead Louise [Emily Goss] and her husband.

Various family secrets and old but never settled arguments come to the surface, inter­spersed with flashbacks to Rose’s younger days. It’s the stuff of good, heartfelt drama, with some humor mixed in to keep it from getting too heavy. Patty’s anger at her dead husband (who she found out two months before his sudden death was cheating on her) and deep defensiveness with both Rose and Allison were rather annoying to watch at times, but the ending is ample payoff for putting up with one annoying character through the middle of the story, so I’ll give it a rating of highly recommended.

Although it is fiction, Snapshots is based on a true story.


IMDbofficial website • Twitter: @SnapshotsMovie • coming August 14, 2018 •

Of Love & Law (愛と法)

Of Love & Law (愛と法), dir. Hikaru Toda (戸田ひかる), 2017 Japan/UK/France, 94 min., in Japanese with English subtitles 💖
Saturday, June 23, 2018 • WEST COAST PREMIERE

Of Love & Law (愛と法)
Fumi [んと吉田昌史(フミ)] and Kazu [る南 和行(カズ)] (pictured) are an openly gay couple of lawyers in Osaka, Japan. Their Namori Law Firm (なんもり法律事務所) takes not only LGBTQ cases, but also the cases of other mar­gin­al­ized people. In Japan, 98.5% of the population is ethnically Japanese, leaving little room for anyone outside the main­stream. Fumi and Kazu have among their clients a woman who officially does not exist, simply be­cause her father and mother were not married to each other when she was born. (An estimated 10,000 people are in similar circumstances, unable to get a birth certificate, a passport, or even a drivers license, and thus blocked from many government services and educational opportunities.) Another client is a feminist artist charged with obscenity for her artworks depicting vaginas in a playful way. Yet another is a teacher who was fired for refusing to stand during the Japanese national anthem. They also fight for marriage equality and the right of a gay couple to be adoptive or foster parents. By chance, Fumi is named as the legal guardian to his orphaned client Kazuma, reinforcing the couple’s determination to bring children into their (still legally unrecognized) family.

The documentary is powerful from beginning to end, leavened with humor even amidst legal setbacks. Fumi and Kazu, through a combination of perseverance, charisma, and thorough knowledge of the law, press their cases, seeking to bring Japan into line with its constitution, which provides every individual the right to the pursuit of happiness. (Side note: in the United States, that phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence, but it has no legal force, because it appears in neither the Constitution nor in federal law.) In that respect, Japan is ahead of the United States, but in many, many ways it falls short of that ideal, and in recent years it has been moving in the wrong direction. The world — and, incidentally, the United States of Trump — desperately need more lawyers like these two, fighting for basic human rights. Their story gives me hope in a world under siege by conformist autocrats. With­out a doubt, a MUST SEE.

IMDb • official website (Hakawati) • Facebook: @OfLoveAndLaw

Dark Twisted Fantasies (2018 shorts program)

Dark Twisted Fantasies” (shorts program)
Saturday, June 23, 9:00 p.m. Roxie 👎🏼
  1. David, dir. James Sweeney, 2018 Germany/USA, 8 minutes 😑 WORLD PREMIERE
  2. Lagi senang jaga sekandang lembu (It’s Easier to Raise Cattle), dir. Amanda Nell Eu, 2017 Malaysia, 17 minutes, in Malaysian with English subtitles 🙄👎 BAY AREA PREMIERE
  3. Smågodis, katter och lite våld (Swedish Candy, Some Violence and a Bit of Cat), dir. Ester Martin Bergsmark, 2018 Sweden, 45 minutes, in Swedish with English subtitles 💩🤮 NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
  4. Les Îles (Islands), dir. Yann Gonzalez, 2017 France, 24 minutes, in French with English subtitles 😑💤 BAY AREA PREMIERE
Four short films, the best of which I give a “meh.”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Studio 54 (2018)

Studio 54, dir. Matt Tyrnauer, 2018 USA, 98 minutes 👏
Sunday, June 24, 7:00 p.m. Castro • CLOSING NIGHT FILM
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Studio 54
By the time I went to Studio 54 in 1981, its heyday was clear­ly over — rather than carefully screening for only the most glam­orous guests, they were having college nights, even let­ting in unglamorous freshmen like me. All the same, I can honestly say that I personally witnessed people snort­ing cocaine in the balcony of Studio 54. I was dimly aware that Studio 54 had been a much bigger deal only a few years prior, but knew next to nothing of the details.

Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary covers a subject that has been written and filmed about quite extensively, but, even if you’ve seen multiple documentaries and/or feature films about Studio 54, you haven’t seen this doc. Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager speaks publicly about it for the first time in decades, giving the inside story in a way other films couldn’t, and Tyrnauer also found many never-before-seen still photos and 16mm films from the club’s heyday. It’s well worth seeing if you experienced the pinnacle of disco culture, or if, like me, you missed it by a few years. Highly recommended.

IMDbofficial websitetrailer (YouTube) •

reviews still to come in Frameline 42

The closing night film of Frameline 42 is almost here, and I’m caught up on my reviews of the films I’ve seen so far — 49 programs and counting, literally more than is humanly possible in the 45 time slots of the festival — but there are a few more reviews in the pipeline. Here’s a quick rundown of the programs of which I hope to post reviews in the next few days.
  • Man in an Orange Shirt
  • Alone in the Game
  • Snapshots
  • Of Love & Law
  • Dark Twisted Fantasies
  • Unstoppable Feat: the Dances of Ed Mock
  • and maybe more, PBS/Netflix/Amazon willing!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Kill the Monsters

Kill the Monsters, dir. Ryan Lonergan, 2018 USA, 80 minutes 💩🤮😒🙄
Saturday, June 23, 9:15 p.m. Castro • WORLD PREMIERE

Kill the Monsters
Frameline describes Ryan Lonergan’s Kill the Monsters as “a comedic Ameri­can allegory that will appeal to U.S. history buffs and to fans of hunky guys in three-way relationships.” Well, yes, it’s Ameri­can; I’ll grant you that. However, simply slapping “1776” and “1803” on the first couple of scenes is far from enough to establish any sort of allegory, and the inces­sant bickering over the most petty of bullshit was more than enough to kill any comedic potential.

I walked out after ~15 minutes. It was THAT bad. Emphatically NOT RECOMMENDED.

IMDb

Ideal Home

Ideal Home, dir. Andrew Fleming, 2017 USA, 91 minutes 👏🤣
Saturday, June 23, 6:30 p.m. • BAY AREA PREMIERE

Ideal Home
Erasmus (Steve Coogan, right) hosts a “lifestyle” TV show for foodies, assisted by his partner Paul (Paul Rudd, left). Everything is going swimmingly for the show, although there is also plenty of alcohol-enhanced bickering when the cam­eras aren’t rolling. Cue Bill, the grandson Erasmus didn’t even know he had — Erasmus had only recently gotten around to telling Paul he has a son — who shows up on their doorstep during a party one night, demanding a place to sleep and something to eat — none of that fancy-schmancy stuff, some real food: Taco Bell. Erasmus and Paul struggle with how to incorporate Bill into their lives, only to then face Bill’s father wanting the boy back now that he’s out of jail.

There is quite a bit of bickering between the main characters, effectively establishing them as self-centered to the point of egomania, but the bickering is in the service of comedy, as the sharp dialogue adds to the farcical events unfolding as the superficially confident men flounder in their newfound roles as foster parents. There were more than enough laugh-out-loud moments to smooth over the annoying bits of petty squabbling. Not quite a must-see, but definitely highly recommended.

IMDbtrailer (YouTube) • Twitter / Facebook / Instagram: @IdealHomeMovie •  limited U.S. theatrical engagement beginning June 29 • opens in UK July 6 •

Leitis in Waiting

Leitis in Waiting, dir. Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson & Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, 2018 USA/Tonga, 72 minutes, in English and in Tongan with English subtitles 💖
Saturday, June 23, 4:15 p.m. Castro • BAY AREA PREMIERE

Leitis in Waiting
First, a quick sidebar: most English speakers pronounce Tonga as “tong-guh,” but if you listen carefully in this film, you will note that the correct pronunciation is closer to “tong-uh.” Tonga is a small island kingdom in the South Pacific, near Fiji and Samoa. It is the only Pacific island that was never politi­cal­ly colonized by Europeans, Americans, or other outsiders, but it was colonized in a much more insidious fashion by the Christian missionaries who viewed many aspects of traditional Tongan culture, including the respected role of the leitis (in Western terms, transwomen) in society (up to and including functions of the royal family), as unbiblical and disreputable.

Leitis in Waiting is a documentary about the leitis, particularly Joey Joeleen Mataele, their lives, and their struggle against the efforts of U.S.-financed fundamentalist preachers advo­cat­ing for stricter enforcement of the sodomy laws still on the books in Tonga (and in several other Pacific Island nations). The leitis, their royal patron, and their families and friends, are all engaging, speaking candidly about their childhoods and present-day lives. It’s a striking look at a vibrant culture at odds with the global push of fundamentalist homophobia and transphobia. Definitely a MUST SEE.

I’ve been fascinated by Pacific Islander cultures ever since my father gave me his copy of Pukui & Elbert’s Hawaiian dictionary, but all the more so as I have learned about the complex role of gender in traditional Pacific Islander cultures. I urge you, in addition to seeing this film, to sgin the petition to decriminalize LGBTQ Pacific Islanders in the 7 Pacific Islands Forum member nations that still have colonial-era anti-gay laws on the books, and to promote the respect and general welfare of sexual minorities in general.

IMDbtrailer (YouTube) • official website • Facebook: @TongaLeitisInWaiting

Friday, June 22, 2018

Marvin ou la belle éducation (Reinventing Marvin)

Marvin ou la belle éducation (Reinventing Marvin), dir. Anne Fontaine, 2017 France, 115 minutes, in French with English subtitles 💖
Friday, June 22, 9:00 p.m. Castro • U.S. PREMIERE

Marvin ou la belle éducation
(Reinventing Marvin):
Isabelle Huppert
and Finnegan Oldfield
Marvin Bijoux, whose last name literally means Jewels,  is grow­ing up in a small town in northeastern France, bullied by class­mates, bullied by his older half-brother, bullied by his father. One day he, perhaps not accidentally, misses swim lessons at school, so the principal drops him into an improv acting class, where he discovers his calling. He gets into drama school and moves to Paris, where he creates a new chosen family, including Isabelle Huppert (playing herself). Marvin looks back only to draw inspiration for a theatre piece about his childhood, garnering rave reviews but also causing a stir in his home town.

The story weaves back and forth from present-day to Marvin’s adolescence. Although Finnegan Oldfield (pictured) does a great job as present-day Marvin, I would be remiss not to highlight Jules Porier, who plays the younger Marvin; with roughly the same amount of screen time, he more than holds his own in establishing the story, playing a difficult role, in­clud­ing endur­ing quite a bit of on-screen bullying, with nuance and grace. Without giving too much away, the present-day story line does much to redeem the bleak suffering of the ado­les­cent Marvin. Although the bullying, both physical and psychological, is difficult to watch in places, it is entirely integral to the plot. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDb • trailer (English) (français) (YouTube) •

Night Comes On

Night Comes On, dir. Jordana Spiro, 2018 USA, 86 minutes
Friday, June 22, 6:30 p.m. Castro

Night Comes On:
Tatum Marilyn Hall (left)
& Dominique Fishback (right)
Angel (Dominique Fishback, pictured right) has just turned 18 and thus aged out of juvenile detention for illegal pos­ses­sion of a handgun. She is released with a few dollars, a bus pass, and a phone but no way to charge it. Angel’s mother is dead, and her father killed her. Her girlfriend is not prepared to pick up as if nothing happened, she has no place to stay, and her job prospects are dismal at best. Angel goes to visit her little sister Abby (Tatum Marilyn Hall, left), planning to find their father and kill him, hoping that will offer her and Abby a fresh start in life.

Night Comes On is very well done, with superb performances by the two leads. It explores the gritty reality of life on the edge of the prison industrial complex, foster care, juvenile de­ten­tion, probation, and life on the streets. However, two things stood in the way of my enjoy­ment. First, the main characters are hardened by circumstances and experience, letting no one in — not even each other, nor the audience. Second, the story is an unrelenting downer, with hardly so much as a reflection of a glimmer of hope. Recommended, but don’t think you’re in for a “feel-good” movie outing.

IMDbtrailer (YouTube) •

Gewoon Vrienden (Just Friends)

Gewoon Vrienden (Just Friends), dir. Ellen Smit, 2018 Netherlands, 80 minutes, in Dutch with English subtitles
Wednesday, June 20, 9:15 p.m. Castro • INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
Sunday, June 24, 4:00 p.m. Castro

Gewoon Vrienden (Just Friends)
Joris (left) and Yad (right)
Joris (Josha Stradowski, left) and Yad (Majd Mardo, right) are from very different backgrounds, but their paths cross when Yad goes to work cleaning for Joris’s grandmother. Grandma plays matchmaker, and things start off swimming­ly, but both Joris’s and Yad’s mothers tend to have strong opinions about the guys their sons are dating. The issue is never “Eek! My son is gay!!” but simply “Is this guy good enough for my son?” Issues of each young man’s career path and other parental drama come into play, but both families accept their sons’ sexu­ality as a given.

Stradowski and Mardo are both easy on the eyes, and there are some steamy scenes between them (though nothing beyond a soft R), but there is more here than just eye candy. Joris and Yad are both feeling their way through defining themselves and the paths they want to follow in life, and the journey keeps the audience engaged. Definitely a MUST SEE.

A couple of footnotes for American audiences: the title in Dutch is pronounced something like khǝ-vōn frēndǝ, and the town is Almere, located just across the IJmeer from Amsterdam and yet a very different place.

IMDbofficial website (in Dutch and English) • trailer (in Dutch without subtitles) •

Retablo

Retablo, dir. Álvaro Delgado Aparicio L., 2017 Peru/Germany/Norway, 95 minutes, in Quechua and Spanish with English subtitles 👏
Friday, June 15, 7:00 p.m. Victoria • BAY AREA PREMIERE
Wednesday, June 20, 1:15 p.m. Castro

Retablo
Director Álvaro Delgado Aparicio L. had a short film, El acompañante (The Companion) in Frameline 37* (2013); I was decidedly unimpressed, finding it a pointless exercise in characters I didn’t care about and into whom I gained no in­sight. Aparicio is back this year with his debut feature, re­turn­ing to the Quechua culture and the retablo art form, small figurines arranged in a diorama as an altarpiece, but with much more interesting characters and some actual plot and dialogue. Noé (Amiel Cayo, pictured left) is teaching his son Segundo (Junior Béjar Roca, pictured right) the craft. Unfortunately, Segundo discovers that Noé is also fooling around with some of the men in their village, something unacceptable in the brutish macho culture around them. Segundo struggles to reconcile his love for his father with the shame, os­tracism and violence Noé has brought upon the family.

Quechua is the third most widely spoken first language in South America, behind only Portu­guese and Spanish, but estadounidense audiences know little or nothing about the people or their culture. For that reason, I bumped this film up to highly recommended, despite its shortcomings, particularly the fact that Noé’s inner life is left unexamined, but it is Segundo’s coming of age at the focus of the film.

IMDb • trailer with English subtitles (YouTube) (Vimeo) •

Note: this film contains scenes of homophobic violence, more graphic in sound than in images.

*Technical Note: the Frameline web archive has a configuration error. Although the website is not secure (i.e., it should use http, not https), it automatically redirects to the secure URL, which fails due to an invalid security certificate. You must set a security exception in your browser to view the site. Alternately, you can view the Frameline 37 Festival Guide here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe, dir. Ondi Timoner, 2018 USA, 94 minutes
Thursday, June 21, 6:30 p.m.
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe (played here by Matt Smith) was a man of many contradictions. He was a fascinating man whom I’m honestly glad I never met. He’s a brilliant artist many of whose most celebrated works I don’t care for, but I appreciate him for opening the door to a much wider range of artistic expression. He celebrated the beauty of the human form but also fetishized black men and intentionally spread the HIV virus long after he knew he was infected.

Ondi Timoner’s biopic gives a well-rounded picture of a complicated man, showing his genius but also his numerous human failings. A few scenes lingered a bit long, leaving me looking at my watch, but on the whole it’s a compelling portrait, made with love but also an unflinching eye, of an influential figure in the history of photography as an art form. Highly recommended for all adult audiences, definitely a MUST SEE for any fan of Mapplethorpe’s work or of cutting-edge photography more broadly.

IMDb

Conversations with Gay Elders: Kerby Lauderdale

Conversations with Gay Elders: Kerby Lauderdale, dir. David Weissman, 2017 USA, 69 minutes
Thursday, June 21, 4:00 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Conversations with Gay Elders:
filmmaker David Weissman (L)
and Kerby Lauderdale (R)
It is rare for a documentary to hold my unflagging attention all the way through, but this conversation is engaging from start to finish. Kerby Lauderdale has a fascinating life, from child­hood sexual awakening to furtive cruising to marriage and children to living proudly as an out gay man. Of course, that’s partly down to a good editor selecting the best third of the raw footage, but Weissman has a knack for turning what could be an impersonal interview into an intimate conversa­tion. I did think at times about memories from comparable times in my own life, but not so much as to take me out of Kerby’s story. 

The series of which this is one installment is an indispensable record of what life was like for gay men who came of age before Stonewall, and it is definitely a MUST SEE.

(disclaimer: filmmaker David Weissman is an acquaintance of several years)

IMDb (director David Weissman) • official website • Facebook: @GayElders

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Moroni for President

Moroni for President, dir. Saila Huusko & Jasper Rischen, 2017 USA, 76 minutes, in English and Diné (Navajo) with subtitles 👏
Wednesday, June 20, 9:15 p.m. Roxie

Moroni for President
The first time in my adult life that I passed through the Navajo Nation, I was surprised to see all along the roadside signs proudly proclaiming “BEGAY for President!” The Diné were in election season, and it turns out that Begay(e) is a quite common Navajo surname. So I shouldn’t be surprised to see someone named for a figure from the Book of Mormon (the religious text, not the Broadway play) running for the same office.

Moroni Benally (rhymes with Denali) was one of 17 candidates for President of the Navajo Nation in 2014. Although it was not a secret that Moroni is gay, the focus of his campaign was sovereignty: although the Navajo Nation is legally semi-autonomous, the US govern­ment owns the land and provides most of the money. The unemployment rate is over 50% and ⅔ of the people are below the poverty line. Moroni felt that the old guard, particularly incumbent Ben Shelly and his predecessor Joe Shirley, have failed to confront the bread-and-butter issues of everyday life on the rez. From his university background, he started out with abstract academic terms like decolonization, but found that people responded more to vague platitudes like “deciding our own future.”

We follow Moroni and some of the other candidates, as well as openly gay campaign workers for the two “establishment” candidates (Shelly and Shirley), through the campaign for the primary, with a brief epilogue about the results of the general election and what Moroni and others have been up to since. Although as of 2018 the Navajo Nation still does not recog­nize same-sex unions due to a 2005 “one man, one woman” law, LGBTQ rights were not a prominent issue in the campaign.

The Navajo Nation is the largest tribal jurisdiction in the United States, but most Americans outside the Four Corners area know little or nothing about it, and most LGBTQ Americans know even less about our Native American comrades. This documentary goes a long way to rec­tifying that, with an emphasis on allowing the Native Americans to speak for themselves with­out a white male interpreter. Highly recommended.

IMDbofficial siteofficial site 2

Wild Nights with Emily

Wild Nights with Emily, dir. Madeleine Olnek, 2018 USA, 84 minutes 👍
Wednesday, June 20, 6:30 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Wild Nights with Emily
Lots of funny lines that had a good part of the audience literally laughing out loud, mixed with the drama of exposing the myth of Emily Dickinson as a reclusive spinster and the origins of that myth. However, layered over all of it was a tone of absurdity that I felt detracted from both the comedy and the drama. Highly recommended for Emily Dickinson fans, but just Recommended for general audiences.

IMDbofficial site • Facebook: @WildNightsWithEmily

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tinta bruta (Hard Paint)

Tinta bruta (Hard Paint), dir. Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon, 2018 Brazil, 118 minutes, in Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles 😴💩🤮🤬😖
Tuesday, June 19, 9:15 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Tinta bruta (Hard Paint)
Boring people doing boring things while bored, punctuated with sex scenes (only a couple of which were even marginally interesting) and scenes of homophobic violence. This film some­how managed to win the Teddy at the Berlin Interna­tional Film Festival and raves from the Frameline folks, but I went back to the festival program afterwards to see what on earth they could’ve possibly seen in this fiasco. The Frameline blurb says, “Actor Shico Menegat’s nuanced performance makes [main character] Pedro instantly relatable.” I couldn’t disagree more. I found Pedro utterly unrelatable, uninteresting, and unsympathetic. The blurb goes on to say, “[D]irectors Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon have crafted a love letter to community.” Well, it certainly looked like a giant FUCK YOU to their home town of Porto Alegre, Brazil, and any­thing but a love letter to anyone or anything.

I sat through almost the entire two hours because it seemed like there HAD to be some redeeming value to garner such accolades, but I really wish I had followed my gut instinct and walked out at least an hour and a half earlier. Sure, I would’ve missed the few bits that were actually sexy, but I wouldn’t have wasted two hours of my life that I could’ve spent cataloging specimens of navel lint. Emphatically NOT RECOMMENDED.

IMDb

Andið eðlilega (And Breathe Normally)

Andið eðlilega (And Breathe Normally), dir. Ísold Uggadóttir, 2018 Iceland/Sweden/Belgium, 95 minutes, in Icelandic and Crioulu (Guinea-Bissau creole) with English subtitles and in English without subtitles 💖
Tuesday, June 19, 6:30 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Andið eðlilega (And Breathe Normally)
Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) is a single mother, strug­gling to raise her son Eldar, fighting a losing battle just to keep a roof over their heads. She gets a job as a trainee bor­der guard at Reykjavik Airport, where she crosses paths with Adja (Babetida Sadjo, pictured left), a refugee from Guinea-Bissau hoping to seek asylum in Canada. Lára, on her first day on the job, notices that Adja’s passport prompts a warning from the computer. Adja then spends weeks in bureaucratic limbo, applying for asylum in Iceland even though her family made it onwards to Toronto. Meanwhile, Lára and Eldar have been evicted, leaving them to live out of her small car. Lára and Adja’s paths cross again and again, leading them warily into friendship.

The main characters give superb performances in this understated story with minimal super­fluous dialogue. Ísold deftly captures the dilemma of a single mother living on the frayed edge and a refugee from Guinea-Bissau, one of the most impoverished countries in the world. The stark landscape of Iceland in September (yes, it’s not even close to winter yet) forms a bleak but beautiful backdrop to a story teetering on the edge between hope and despair. Definitely a MUST SEE.

Note to hearing-impaired audiences: although most of the dialogue is in Icelandic and Crioulu with English subtitles, significant parts of the dialogue, in particular almost all of the dialogue with Adja, are in English without subtitles.

IMDbtrailer (with Icelandic subtitles) • a short clip (with English subtitles) •

Mi mejor amigo (My Best Friend)

Mi mejor amigo (My Best Friend), dir. Martin Deus, 2018 Argentina, 90 min., in Argentinian Spanish with English subtitles 👏
Tuesday, June 19, 1:30 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Mi mejor amigo (My Best Friend)
Lorenzo (Angelo Mutti Spinetta, pictured right) is a quiet teenager, living in Los Antiguos, a small town in southern Argentina, with his parents and his younger brother (played by his real-life brother). Then a friend of his father’s sends his son Caíto (Lautaro Rodríguez, pictured left) to stay with them indefinitely. Lorenzo and Caíto become friends, and Lorenzo develops feelings for Caíto.

It is certainly a beautiful film, but I found the character of Caíto difficult to relate to. He spends so much of the movie just being an obnoxious jerk, mostly at Lorenzo’s expense, that it’s hard to see what Lorenzo sees in him, beyond the eternal allure of “the bad boy.” Still, Spinetta’s performance redeems the film somewhat, enough that I give it a Highly recommended.

IMDb • Facebook: @MiMejorAmigoFilmtrailer (YouTube) •

Monday, June 18, 2018

Riot

Riot, dir. Jeffrey Walker, 2018 Australia, 105 minutes 👍
Monday, June 18, 9:15 p.m. Castro
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

Riot
In 1978, nine years after the Stonewall riots in New York City, gay life in Sydney, Australia, was still under the thumb — and too often under the boot heel — of the corrupt and benighted New South Wales Police. Then a group of activists decided, in stead of a conventional protest march, they would hold a gay mardi gras. Today the event is a cornerstone of Sydney’s tourist industry as well as one of the largest LGBTQ events in the world.

Riot is a docudrama, recreating the events leading up to the 1978 mardi gras, beginning in 1972. We follow the lives of several of the activists, principally Lance Gowland and Marg McMann, as they talk communist theory and protest marches and meeting with the premier. Unfortunately, at 105 minutes it’s a lumbering crawl through an overly detailed prologue, taking well over an hour to finally arrive at 1978. I think it could be a much more engaging film with a bit of editing, losing maybe about half an hour of the early stuff. However, because of the enormous historical significance of these events that have been largely forgotten over the intervening four decades, I will give it a Recommended.

This film includes graphic depictions of homophobic police violence.

* IMDbofficial press release

When the Beat Drops

When the Beat Drops, dir. Jamal Sims, 2018 USA, 86 minutes 💖
Monday, June 18, 6:30 p.m. Castro • WEST COAST PREMIERE
Thursday, June 21, 9:00 p.m. Piedmont Theatre (Oakland)

When the Beat Drops:
welcome to the world of bucking
Like far too many people, I had never heard of the dance style called “bucking” or “J-Setting.” It originated in the African American gay community in the Deep South, an homage in part to the style of the cheerleading squads at his­torically black colleges and universities, especially Jackson State (whence the term “J-Setting”), but it is begin­ning to emerge from the underground scene into the recognition it richly deserves.

When the Beat Drops follows several teams of dancers, from the venerable Phi Phi squad, led by Anthony “Big Tony” Davis, to the new troupe down from Detroit, Sundari. We get a good grounding in the history of bucking, but we also get to know the dancers, many of whom have professional day jobs — in sharp contrast to the street kids we met in Paris is Burning, a film with obvious parallels in introducing an underground phenomenon to a broader audience. Of course, the interplay of issues of race and sexual orientation is part of the story, but so is Faith.

The subjects of this documentary are worth getting to know, even apart from their connec­tion to bucking, but the skill, musicality and theatricality of their art is awe-inspiring. I greatly hope this film finds a wide audience and a prominent place in the history of our time. Definitely a MUST SEE.

Coming next month to Outfest in Los Angeles, with a live performance of bucking July 19 at the Ford Theatre.

IMDbtrailerWOW Report (World of Wonder) • Twitter: @Jamizzi (Jamal Sims) •

Martesa (The Marriage)

Martesa (The Marriage), dir. Blerta Zeqiri, 2017 Kosovo/Albania, 97 minutes, in Albanian with subtitles 👎🏼🤮
Monday, June 18, 4:00 p.m. Castro
WEST COAST PREMIERE

Martesa (The Marriage)
I’m very pleased that Kosovo finally has a film that accepts gay love on par with heterosexual love. I just wish it weren’t such a dreadful film. I spent an hour and a half wondering, Is it over yet?? I found all three of the main characters unre­lent­ing­ly obnoxious and utterly without redeeming qualities of any kind, and from the scenes with relatives it would seem it runs in the family. Their lives apparently revolve primarily around getting puking drunk.

I would not willingly spend five minutes in the same room with any of these characters, and I couldn’t possibly care less what happens to them. There is a scene in which one of the main characters gets beaten up by skinheads; I managed to duck out at just the right moment, so I can’t tell you how bad that scene was. Maybe Kosovans and Albanians will find this film historically resonant, but for general audiences I give it an emphatic Not recommended.

This film contains a depiction of homophobic violence.

IMDbofficial website

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Gospel of Eureka

The Gospel of Eureka, dir. Michael Palmiere & Donal Mosher, 2018 USA, 75 minutes 👏
Sunday, June 17, 9:15 p.m. Castro — BAY AREA PREMIERE

The Gospel of Eureka
The town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is home to an odd assortment of folk. Eureka Springs boasts the largest statue of Christ in North America and a major Passion Play, but also drag bars and a non-discrimination ordinance affirmed by voters by a more than 2-to-1 margin. We meet some of the evangelicals and some of the drag queens and various other townsfolk for a lesson about the history of Eureka Springs and its present-day reality, narrated by Mx Justin Vivian Bond.

The interviews provide a fascinating glimpse into an all-too-unusual peaceful coexistence of evangelical Christians and LGBTQ activists. It’s worth seeing, Highly recommended.

IMDbofficial websiteFacebook

1985 (2018 feature film)

1985, dir. Yen Tan, 2018 USA, 85 minutes 💖
Sunday, June 17, 6:45 p.m. Castro
WEST COAST PREMIERE

1985: Adrian (Cory Michael Smith)
The setting is Fort Worth, Texas, Christmas 1985. Adrian (Cory Michael Smith, pictured) is home visiting his devoutly Christian parents and his younger brother Andrew for the first time in three years, since right after he graduated from college. He wrestles with coming out as gay and in the late stages of AIDS and tries to mend his relationship with Andrew, a budding theater queen in the making, trying to make peace with a family he knows he may never see again.

The story is especially resonant for me: I grew up in Dallas and am just three years younger than the main character. My best friend from 2nd grade was a budding theater queen who once lived right at the corner of Christopher and Gay in New York, less than a block from the site of the Stonewall Inn; he died of AIDS in 1984 at the age of 21. I was a bit less sexually precocious, I guess, so I knew about HIV and condoms and all that by the time I started experimenting. Had I been just three years older, my life might have taken a drastic turn down a much short­er road.

The performances are spot-on, delving into the emotional depths of the story but keeping a bit of humor to leaven it. The film was shot on actual black-and-white film, giving it a gor­geous luminance that digital just can’t replicate. It also gives a retro feel to the story and focuses the viewer’s attention on the characters, not the scenery, costumes, and so forth. It’s a poignant tribute to the people who died in the early days of AIDS and the loved ones they left behind. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDbofficial websiteFacebook, Twitter, Instagram: @1985TheFilm •

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Postcards from London

Postcards from London, dir. Steve McLean, 2018 UK, 88 minutes 💖
Saturday, June 16, 9:30 p.m. Castro BAY AREA PREMIERE
Sunday, June 17, 9:30 p.m. Elmwood (Berkeley)

Postcards from London
Jim (Harris Dickinson, pictured) is an ingénu, fresh off the train from his provincial life to begin a life of adventure and wonderment in the big city, London. He quickly falls prey to a robber, but he also dis­cov­ers that, in the presence of true art, he faints — the legendary Stendahl syndrome. Fortu­nate­ly (or perhaps not) he falls in with a group of rent boys who call themselves the Raconteurs, selling not just a quick bit of sex, but also some erudite storytelling about the great masters.

The sets are spare with lots of neon, looking more like a stage play than a conventional movie. Combined with the artworks coming to life after causing Jim to faint, the effect is an im­mer­sive, dreamlike, hallucinatory feel that brought to mind films like Lilies (Frameline 21), Naked Lunch, and eXistenZ. The sexuality is mostly kept to a PG-13 level (in US terms), but still palpably present. What really shines through is the dialogue, full of razor-sharp wit amidst the talk of Caravaggio, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Definitely a MUST SEE, and definitely on my list as soon as it comes out on DVD.

IMDbofficial website

Mario

Mario, dir. Marcel Gisler, 2018 Switzerland, 119 minutes, in Bernese (Swiss) German (Bärndütsch) and standard German with English subtitles 💖
Saturday, June 16, 6:30 p.m. Castro
BAY AREA PREMIERE

Mario
In the town of Thun, Switzerland, 25 km south of Bern, Mario (Max Hubacher, pictured, 2nd from the left) is a promising young footballer (soccer player), playing for the local Under 21 team and angling to go big-league pro. His team brings in Leon (Aaron Altaras, pictured, far left), a star player from Hanover, Germany, and then assigns the two to share an apartment. Most of the team is jealous of the new­comer, but Mario and Leon get along well on the field and even better off. However, with teams and sponsors still wary of “controversy,” they can’t openly be paramours, so Mario and Leon must choose between career and true love. American audiences likely won’t notice the language barrier between Leon, who speaks German, and most of the other characters, who speak a dialect of Swiss German called Bärndütsch, not at all the same thing.

The soccer players are gorgeous, fit guys, all but the two leads actual professional or semi-pro players. Hubacher and Altaras capture the nuances of the progression from initial attrac­tion to the intoxication of coupling to the bleak reality of the dilemma they face: follow your heart or follow your vocation? It’s beautifully filmed, even the soccer scenes (and I say that as an American who barely knows a penalty kick from an own goal), but the emotional predicament takes center stage; the eye candy is icing on the cake. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDb • Facebook: @MarioFilm

Every Act of Life

Every Act of Life, dir. Jeff Kaufman, 2018 USA, 93 minutes 💖
Saturday, June 16, 3:45 p.m. Castro
WEST COAST PREMIERE

Every Act of Life
Playwright Terrence McNally is famous for so many works it’s hard to know where to begin: Love! Valour! Compas­sion!, Master Class, The Lisbon Traviata, The Ritz, and Ragtime, just to name a few. He didn’t set out to be a great gay play­wright, any more than Arthur Miller set out to be a great straight playwright, but neither did McNally shrink from gay material or the gay community. The maxim “Write what you know” led him again and again to write about us, beginning when it was still illegal even in New York City.

This documentary takes us from McNally’s childhood in conservative working-class Corpus Christi, Texas, to the three plays he’s currently working on. Interviews with stars such as Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Edie Falco, F. Murray Abraham, and many more, plus interviews with McNally himself, fill in the picture of his personal and professional life. Whether you’re a Broadway habitué or you’ve scarcely even heard of it, you should see this excellent film about a groundbreaking writer. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDbofficial website (note: the IMDb link to the production co. website is incorrect) •

Paper Boys

Paper Boys, episodes 1 and 2, dir. Curtis Casella, 2015/2016 USA, 92 minutes 👏
Saturday, June 16, 1:30 p.m. Victoria • WORLD PREMIERE

Paper Boys
Daren (pictured) lives in San Francisco, where he and his fiancée Rebecca are planning an engagement party. Cole, Daren’s best friend, flies out from New York for the party, but also secretly to move to San Francisco, having lined up a couple of job interviews but no actual job nor a place to live. Cole bumps into an ex, Max, complicating the scene. Of course, there are several other complications to the plot, but I won’t give you any spoilers, except to say that Cole has a sketch pad that turns out to have magic superpowers.

The characters are interesting and complex, and the magic sketch pad certainly opens up interesting plot possibilities, of which we see a small sample in the first two episodes. The series is engaging and funny, well worth seeing, although I confess I’m not exactly in a hurry to add yet another pay site to my entertainment sources. Highly recommended.

IMDBofficial website • watch episodes 1 – 4 on Dekkoo (pay site) • YouTube channel (includes episode 1 and trailers for others) • Facebook & Tumblr: @PaperBoysTheSeries • Twitter: @_PaperBoys_ (note the underscores!)

Unboxed

Unboxed, dir. Sam Matthews, 2018 Australia, 41 minutes 👏
played as part of the “Transblack & Unboxed” episodics program
Saturday, June 16, 11:00 a.m. Roxie
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

Unboxed: Bailee-Rose
Filmmaker Sam Matthews traveled around Australia to chat with six gender-diverse artists (Bailee-Rose [pictured], Beau, Jacquie, Bleck, Teddy, and Stephanie) about their lives and their work, samples of which you can see on the official website. The theme of the art works is “unboxed,” in the sense of “thinking out­side the box,” or however each artist chose to interpret it. The artists and the art works are all pretty interesting and engaging. Well worth seeing, highly recommended.

Frameline 42 attendees will recognize Bleck from the festival trailer, specifically the part where a box of water un-pours itself over them.

IMDbofficial website (includes art works and a trailer video)watch the series (link may not work outside Australia)

Transblack

Transblack, dir. Charmaine Ingram, 2018 Australia, 40 minutes 💖
played as part of the episodics programTransblack & Unboxed
Saturday, June 16, 11:00 a.m. Roxie
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

Transblack
From Australia and “the other ABC” (Australian Broacasting Corporation) comes this documentary mini-series profiling four people, each of whom identifies as a transgender per­son of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island heritage. We meet Max, Nastasia, Jeremy (pictured), and Sammy, who tell their stories of finding their places in indigenous society and in the trans community. Each one is a compelling portrait and a look into a culture that even most Australians know little about. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDbofficial website (with links to watch each of the four episodes) • promo (Vimeo) •

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desirée Akhavan, 2018 USA, 91 minutes 💖
Friday, June 15, 9:30 p.m. Roxie
Thursday, June 21, 7:00 p.m. Piedmont Theatre (Oakland)
in theatres August 3, 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The year is 1993. Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, pictured right) goes to her high school’s homecoming dance with her “boyfriend,” but ends up spend­ing more quality time with the prom queen until the “boyfriend” finds them making out in the back of his car. Cameron’s guardians (she’s an orphan) send her to “God’s Promise,” a pray-away-the-gay boarding school, to cure her of her SSA (Same-Sex Attrac­tion). She wavers between earnest­ly trying to take the process seriously and running off into the woods with two of the other misfits, Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane, pictured center) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck, pictured left). Jane has a wooden leg that serves as a convenient hiding place for her stash of marijuana; Adam is a winkte, a two-spirit Native American (specifically Lakota) whose father was fine with his winkte son until the father decided to go into politics.

There is plenty of humor along the way, but it bears highlighting that when the story gets dark, it gets very dark. I won’t spoil the plot beyond that, but don’t go in expecting it to be a lighthearted comedy throughout. Moretz, Lane, and Goodluck join a fine cast, all of whom turn in stellar performances, the production values are excellent, and the story is sharp. Sadly, the issue of sending kids to gay conversion camps remains relevant in the era of Trump, much though it should have been relegated to the ash heap of the 20th century. (One random tidbit from the production: the “dancing on the table in the kitchen” scene was filmed the day after the 2016 election.) Even today, only 10 states have outlawed “conver­sion therapy” for minors. This excellent film, sadly more timely than we would ever wish, is definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDb • based on the novel by Emily Danforth (movie tie-in edition coming July 3) •

The Ice King

The Ice King, dir. James Erskine, 2018 UK, 89 min., NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE 💖
Friday, June 15, 4:00 p.m. Castro
The Ice King: skating
pioneer John Curry

I had honestly never heard of John Curry, but he more than anyone else transformed the sport of men’s figure skating from merely a boring exhibition of technical proficiency into a beautiful art form — still demanding in terms of strength and tech­nique, but adding grace, fluidity, and artistic ex­pres­­sion, not to mention choreography, that had previ­ously been found only in women’s events.

John Curry won a gold medal for the United Kingdom at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. He was also outed when a comment he had assumed was “off the record” was published, but he refused to deny the report. He returned home and created a company to bring his artistry to audiences in London and around the world. Although he is no longer the household name he was 40 years ago, he blazed the trail for people like Johnny Weir and Adam Rippon. Even if (like me) you are only passingly interested in ice skating (On a good day, I can skate laps around the rink for an hour without falling on my ass.), John Curry’s legacy in sports, arts, and gay visibility is worth celebrating.

In James Erskine’s documentary, we see archival footage of John Curry both skating and sitting for interviews. We add to that Curry’s personal letters, background on his personal as well as his professional life, and interviews with family, friends and colleagues, plus tributes from people (including Johnny Weir) who carry his legacy into the present. Curry was a complicated character on and off the ice, but we get a sense of him as a whole person and extol his groundbreaking (or I suppose I should say “icebreaking”?) artistry. Definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDb •  official website (Dogwoof documentary distribution, with ordering information on iTunes and DVD, but important note: the DVD is coded for Europe, region 2/PAL, and will not work on most U.S. players. Hopefully the region 1/ATSC version will be out soon!) • trailer (YouTube) • Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest: @Dogwoof •

Thursday, June 14, 2018

TransMilitary


TransMilitary, dir. Fiona Dawson & Gabriel Silverman, 2018 USA, 93 minutes 💖
Thursday, June 14, 7:00 p.m. Castro (opening night) WEST COAST PREMIERE

TransMilitary: off to see the brass
The largest employer of transgender people in this country, and possibly in the world, is the U.S. military, bizarre as that may seem at first glance. The repeal of the U.S. military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in 2010, ef­fec­­tive 2011-09-20, was a boon for LGB service members, but did nothing to help trans­gen­der troops. Until the ban on trans­gender military service was finally lifted in 2016, any transperson serving in the military could be bounced out, with an honorable dis­charge if they were lucky. A handful of transgender active-duty service members comple­mented their physical bravery with daunt­less personal fortitude and actively challenged the policy. In this documentary, we meet four of those individuals and follow them through meet­ings with officials all the way up to Sec­re­tary of Defense Ash Carter, to the jubilation over the end to the transgender ban, but then onward to the uncer­tainty created by our so-called President’s efforts to court his benighted base by reinstating the ban in a tweet. (So far, the courts have foiled his efforts, but the uncer­tainty remains to this day.)

Of course, anyone who even gives a cursory glance at the news knows the skeleton of the story, but meeting these individuals, seeing them deployed in places like Afghanistan, going into some private moments with them and their families, and watching them pursue the changes to policies and procedures — down to such granular issues as bathrooms, uniforms, and hairstyles — serves to humanize the issues. Even when I was in my peak physical condition, I doubt I could’ve made it through a week of basic training, and I might very well have been kicked out before lunchtime. When I see people like Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and First Lieutenant El Cook, these are exactly the kind of people I want out there defending our country, and I think you will agree when you see this film.

With the United States fast approaching the day when we have military enlistees who were born after the start of the Afghanistan war, our country needs to come to terms with the irrationality of discharging qualified, capable, dedicated people just because they’re trans­gender. This documentary needs to be seen widely, to underpin this important national con­versation. It’s definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDbOfficial web • Facebook: @TransMilitaryDocTwitter & Instagram: @TransMilitary #TransMilitaryDoc #OpenTransService • Palm Center (studies policy issues about LGBT members of the US armed services) •

Would You Look at Her (shorts program)

Would You Look at Her” (shorts program)
Saturday, June 23, 4:00 p.m. Roxie
  1. Would You Look at Her (short film) (Види Ја Ти Неа) (Vidi Ya Ti Nea), dir. Goran Stolevski (Горан Столевски), 2017 Macedonia, 19 minutes, in Macedonian with English subtitles, WEST COAST PREMIERE 👏
  2. Devi / Goddess (देवी) (দেবী), dir. Karishma Dube, 2017 India, 13 minutes, in English, Bengali, and Hindi with English subtitles, BAY AREA PREMIERE 👏
  3. Tooth and Nail, dir. Sara Shaw, 2017 USA, 20 minutes 👏
  4. Concern for Welfare, dir. Fadia Abboud, 2018 Australia, 12 minutes, in English and Levantine Arabic with subtitles, NORTH AMERICA PREMIERE ❓
  5. The Inherent Traits of Connor James, dir. Ally Pankiw, 2017 Canada, 14 minutes, U.S. PREMIERE 👏

Worldly Affairs (2018 shorts program)

Worldly Affairs” (2018 shorts program)
Friday, June 22, 4:00 p.m. Castro
  1. Top 10 Lugares em São Paulo (Top 10 Places to Visit in São Paulo), dir. Akira Kamiki, 2018 Brazil, 14 minutes, in Brazilian Portuguese and Argentinian Spanish with English subtitles, plus English without subtitles, WEST COAST PREMIERE 👏
  2. Set Me As a Seal upon Thine Heart (Simani k’hotam al libha) ‏(שִׂימֵנִי כַחֹותָם עַל־לִבֶּךָ)‏
    ‏(שימני כחותם על לבך)‏
    , dir. Omer Tobi (עומר טוב), 2018 Israel, 10 minutes, in Hebrew with English subtitles, BAY AREA PREMIERE 👍
  3. Pre-Drink, dir. Marc-Antoine Lemire, 2017 Canada, 23 minutes, in French with English subtitles and in English with English subtitles (100% subtitled), WEST COAST PREMIERE 💖
  4. Just Past Noon on a Tuesday, dir. Travis Mathews, 2018 Brazil/USA, 22 minutes, in Portuguese with English subtitles, WEST COAST PREMIERE 👎🏼

Homegrown (2018 shorts program)

Homegrown” (2018 shorts program)
Thursday, June 21, 9:15 p.m. Victoria
  1. Dyke Bars Never Last, dir. Stacy McKenzie, 2018 USA, 6 minutes 👏 (also screened as part of the “Fun in Girls Shorts” program) WORLD PREMIERE
  2. Dropping Penny, dir. Jed Bell, 2017 USA, 8 minutes 👍 (also screened as part of the “Transtastic” shorts program) WORLD PREMIERE
  3. Fig Tree, dir. Ana Quintanilla, 2018 USA, 5 minutes 👎🏼😕 WORLD PREMIERE
  4. Don’t Judge Me, It’s Rude, dir. Taylor Whitehouse, 2018 USA, 5 minutes 👎🏼🤮 WORLD PREMIERE
  5. I Live Here, dir. Shane Watson, 2017 USA, 18 minutes 👏 WEST COAST PREMIERE
  6. The PrEP Project, dir. Chris Tipton-King & Robyn Kopp, 2017 USA, 19 min. 💖
  7. A Great Ride, dir. Deborah Craig & Veronica Deliz, 2018 USA, 28 minutes ❓

Up Close & Personal (2018 shorts program)

Up Close & Personal” (2018 shorts program)
Friday, June 22, 1:30 p.m. Castro

  1. Note to Self, dir. Alex Bohs, 2017 USA, 2 minutes 👍
  2. What Do You See, dir. Michael Bonner, 2017 Australia, 6 minutes 👏 WORLD PREMIERE
  3. 98 Years* and Counting: More Women Leaders Needed Everywhere, dir. Kirthi Nath, 2018 USA, 3 minutes 👏
  4. My Own Wings, dir. Katia Repina, 2016 Spain/USA, 9 minutes, in English, Spanish, French and Ukrainian with English subtitles throughout 👏 BAY AREA PREMIERE
  5. The Things that Make Us, dir. Fox Fisher, 2017 UK, 3 minutes 💖 WORLD PREMIERE
  6. Many Loves, One Heart, dir. Sarah Feinbloom, 2017 USA/Jamaica, 19 minutes (also screened in the “Realness & Revelations” shorts program) 👏 WORLD PREMIERE
  7. Angela Wilson: A Butcher’s Story, dir. Gaby Scott, 2018 USA, 7 minutes 👏 U.S. PREMIERE
  8. Picture This, dir. Jari Osborne, 2017 Canada, 33 minutes 💖

We the Animals

We the Animals, dir. Jeremiah Zagar, 2018 USA, 94 minutes 💖
Friday, June 22, 6:30 p.m. Victoria

We the Animals
Synopsis: Based on the novel by Justin Torres. Jonah (Evan Rosado, pictured), just turned 10, lives in upstate New York with his mom, dad (Raúl Castillo, pictured), and two older brothers. The boys roam around town and the woods around their house, occasionally getting into mis­chief. Jonah also has a secret notebook in which he sketches an imaginative fantasy world in pen and colored pencil. His parents’ arguments turn violent, casting baleful shadows on what initially seemed a halcyon childhood. He connects with the neighbor’s grandson, a 14-year-old boy who seems to share with Jonah a lack of affinity for the macho, heteronormative world around them, particularly embodied by Jonah’s father.

Review: We the Animals is a rare gem of a coming-of-age drama, captivating from begin­ning to end. Although told from the perspective of the 10-year-old protagonist, it explores themes well beyond that age. It is sympathetic but not sentimental, presenting Jonah’s life much as he sees it himself. Beautiful performances and cinematography, with an evocative but not intrusive sound track, definitely a MUST SEE.

IMDb • in theatres August 10, 2018!

They

They, dir. Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, 2017 USA/Qatar, 80 minutes, in English and Farsi with English subtitles 💖
Thursday, June 21, 7:00 p.m. Roxie

Rhys Fehrenbacher as J. in They
J (Rhys Fehrenbacher) is a 14-year-old living near Chicago. They have been taking hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty, in order to give them more time to clarify their gender identity, but their doctor is concerned about some of their test results, leading him to advocate reaching a decision soon about the next steps in J’s medical journey. Meanwhile, J’s parents are out of town for a long weekend, so J’s sister Lauren and her boyfriend Araz come to look after them, and they all go to a party with Araz’s family.

The focus in this film is less on the medical and psychological drama around a teenager trying to disentangle their gender identity and more on the simple human drama of a teenager reconnecting with an older sibling they haven’t seen in quite a while and catching up on their life, with the gender question present but not at the forefront. We watch a weekend in which gender is just one element. All the actors, but especially Fehrenbacher, provide deft, nuanced performances in this slice-of-life story.

The only complaint I would register is that much of the dialogue is so softly spoken as to be difficult to make out. I literally turned my TV louder than it has ever been before and still missed what I hope were not crucial bits of the text. With that small caveat, MUST SEE.

IMDbOfficial websitetrailer (YouTube) • Wikipedia

The Last Goldfish

The Last Goldfish, dir. Su Goldfish, 2017 Australia, 81 minutes 👏
Wednesday, June 20, 9:15 p.m. Victoria
WEST COAST PREMIERE

baby Su Goldfish & parents
Su Goldfish was born in Trinidad, but her family fled the racial unrest there when she was 13, emigrating to Australia. Shortly after, she began trying to piece together the story of her family, leading her to a series of unfore­seen discoveries: her father was a German Jew, original­ly named Goldfisch, who narrowly escaped in 1938, one of only about 600 Jews who were let into Trinidad — the British closed the border 12 days later. He escaped with his first wife, with whom he had two children, half-siblings Su had never known existed, but then neither did she know her father was Jewish. Over the course of more than 30 years, she makes contact with her brother and sister and several other relatives, and learns much more about her family, their roots in Germany, details of the fate of her relatives, and the lives the survivors built in France, Canada, and the United States.

It’s an intensely personal journey, rooted in her family tree and her own experience as an immigrant, but it spans a wide swath of history across four continents, giving the story a much broader appeal than just “Come look at my family photo album.” The immense life-and-death dramas that weave through the story are uncovered gradually, leaving space for the audience to contemplate such things as the barbarity of Nazi Germany, while also finding hope in the ongoing commitment of present-day Germans to remember those who were so callously put to death. The pace at times feels leisurely, but there’s a lot of material, and connections between the specific and the general. The issue of homosexuality comes up briefly a couple of times, primarily in the context of Su’s parents’ disapproval; most of the story is about the Goldfisch family’s place in the diaspora. Highly recommended.

IMDbofficial websiteother official website • Facebook: @TheLastGoldfishFilmtrailer