November 19, 2016
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By Roger Rose
For the 32nd delightful year, Frameline showed how it retains its undisputed position as the world’s premiere showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cinema. A select program of 237 films was exhibited in three San Francisco theatres and one Berkeley theatre in an exciting 11-day run – viewed by tens of thousands of delighted ticket holders.
Patrons chose from a mixed-genre bag of political views, artistically innovative visions, brooding horror flicks, comedies, and socially volatile films, among many varied selections. The Festival featured 18 first-time filmmakers, as well as beloved pioneers of queer cinema, including Barbara Hammer and Bruce LaBruce.
Opening-night viewers once again romped through the much-loved tradition of screening years of Frameline trailers – nearly two decades of changing style and taste – all flashing by in 30-second clips. Joyful smiles mixed with sadness when the annual Frameline Award was presented to Michael Lumpkin, a farsighted leader who steered the festival through 28 years of growth and is leaving his post this year.
Two of the original Frameline founders, Mark Huestis and Dan Nicoletta, presented the esteemed Frameline Award. Huestis reminisced about the early days, when Frameline was just a small neighborhood effort of Super8 filmmakers: “Years ago, we were a group of queer, subversive self-promoting gold diggers who got together and decided to put on a film show. Those first years were cost-free packed houses, with movies projected on a hanging bedsheet. It was Harvey Milk’s camera store where we developed our films, and our ‘counter girl’ was 19-year old Dan.”
Nicoletta, the erstwhile ‘counter girl,’ smiled at the reference, and then picked up the thread of the story. “Michael [Lumpkin] joined us just to be a part of our ‘coffee klatch.’ His vision made clear that we needed to add an element of public discourse to our film showings, and he was a natural curator. When we started, most of the other guys would have been content to keep our films as an informal community happening, a petite festival of local independents. But, Michael helped us grow from a small community happening to a world-class film event.”
At this, the audience was on its feet, clapping in appreciation for all that Frameline has become. When the applause died down, a call was made for newly-married couples who, then stood to receive the riotous blessing of the house.
Things quieted down for the start of the outstanding opening film, Affinity, director Tim Fywell’s take on Sarah Waters’ novel (adapted by Andrew Davies and produced by Adrian Bate). A powerful British romantic mystery begun within the gloomy backdrop of a Victorian prison, Affinity is both a Gothic ghost story and a tender account of illicit love. Fywell’s careful detailing of the story (set in the shadowy 1880s) adds to the understory of spiritualism, s»ances and otherworldly beliefs that hung in the dark corners between science and religion. The relentless story wraps around subtle relationships and comes to a surprise ending.
A first-rate roster explored appealing stories that included compelling features, shorts, and documentaries – in the best tradition of LGBT cinema. With the community embracing the new ‘family’ state of mind, it’s great to see three shows of children’s media helping to blend alternative families into the fold.
Overall, out of all these films, we can count only a few that may not show the high-end production values or dazzling cinematography that we’ve come to expect. But audiences were thrilled with fine contributions from 41 Bay Area filmmakers and selections from 36 countries – 148 short films and 57 features.
Gay Muslim filmmaker Sharma Parvez made a bold documentary that looks at the plight of devout Muslims who resist the Quran’s ban on homosexuality. Shot in twelve countries, the film enters the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims from countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, France, India, and South Africa. The challenge of being a devout Muslim and gay – and the courage of the interviewees – is underscored by the fact that many of them asked for their faces to be digitally-blurred to avoid imprisonment, torture, and death.
Some of the breakout films likely slated for distribution include:
The Edge of Heaven
This feature film engages your senses on many levels with an underlying metaphoric political message about how nations can join the European Union and preserve unique cultural identity.
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
Documentary reveals portions of this gifted musician’s trip from Iowa to San Francisco, and covers his final coming-out in New York’s performance art world. We discover a creative genius who played music for Allen Ginsberg’s readings, collaborated with Philip Glass, and partnered with other celebrated figures.
Be Like Others
This documentary gives an eye-opening look at how transsexuals in Iran need government permission to have their sex change operations. Although transsexuals may not be mentioned in the Quran, they are still subject to misunderstandings and street harassment, while homosexuals are often punished by death or stoning.
Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band
Rockumentary offers insight into the powerful role of band music in contemporary gay culture. The intelligence and personality of band members are brilliantly revealed in this low-budget offering.
Frameline’s closing film, Breakfast with Scot, is a touching comedy that couldn’t arrive at a more historic moment to shine a happy light on the unconventional family. The Canadian feature tells the story of a very ‘straight’ gay couple (a lawyer and an ex-NHL hockey player-turned-sportscaster) whose lives are
completely up-ended when they adopt an 11-year-old ‘sissified’ boy. Officially sanctioned by the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Breakfast with Scot has historic significance – the film marks the first time a professional sports league has permitted its uniforms and logo to be used in a movie with a gay storyline. There has never been an out gay athlete in the history of Canadian hockey, so here’s hoping a rusty closet door may start swinging.
Posted on Jul 02, 2008 - 02:21 PM