The oldest LGBT film festival in the world, Frameline, begins its 36th edition tomorrow, June 14 and runs through the end of San Francisco’s gay pride, Sunday, June 24. Affectionately described by many attendees as “the Cannes of gay film festivals,” Frameline’s annual presentation of the newest US and international queer work essentially takes over San Francisco, drawing locals as well as filmmakers, fans, and industry from all over the world.
I attended the festival a few times while I was based in the Bay Area for university, but have not made it back since – for a dozen years, my festival, NewFest, ran right before Frameline began, and I was too burnt out to make the trek out west. I enjoyed seeing my counterparts there scouting for films at other major festivals on the circuit, however, and I often expressed my jealousy of the massive and loyal crowds they attracted, as well as their beautiful home base, the landmark picture palace Castro Theatre. While I won’t be attending this year, and I’m not as obsessively aware of LGBT cinema as I used to be, the following are among the 35 documentaries included in the festival’s nearly hundred strong features lineup that most piqued my interest:
I’ve already written about Frameline’s opening night film, VITO (pictured), and centerpiece, CALL ME KUCHU, both strong portraits of activists that serve to remind audiences of the past and present struggles facing LGBT people. I’ve also previously profiled Sundance jury prize winner, LOVE FREE OR DIE, appearing in the fest’s special Showcase, and also dealing with activism around a different, but vital, issue for some LGBT people – religion – as well as UNITED IN ANGER, focused on ACT UP.
A quieter, but also effective, form of activism is on display in Cassie Jaye’s THE RIGHT TO LOVE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY, in which a family with two dads uses YouTube to put a face to the Proposition 8 debate; while Katherine Linton’s MISSISSIPPI: I AM explores the efforts of young Southerners to confront homophobia in their state. Turning the focus outside of the US, Yariv Mozer’s THE INVISIBLE MEN explores the challenges faced by gay Palestinians; and a collective of ten directors document queer women in Indonesia in CHILDREN OF SRIKANDI (pictured), named after a legendary warrior of indeterminate gender.
Trans subjects figure in gender scholar Susan Stryker’s clipshow of her work-in-progress on 1950s MTF pioneer Christine Jorgensen, CHRISTINE IN THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR; Michiel van Erp’s accomplished I AM A WOMAN NOW, which I’ve previously written about; Valerie Mitteaux’s GIRL OR BOY, MY SEX IS NOT MY GENDER, exploring how being raised girls affects FTMs’ sense of maleness; and FTM porn star-turned-filmmaker Buck Angel’s SEXING THE TRANSMAN (pictured), which takes an explicit and intimate look at transmen’s sexual self-expression.
Finally, from present day portraits to the queer past, Frameline offers a number of illuminating docs on figures and places that have informed the LGBT experience. Among these are Dagmar Schultz’s AUDRE LORDE: THE BERLIN YEARS 1984 TO 1992, documenting the feminist scholar’s time in Germany; Michael House’s REVEALING MR MAUGHAM, a biography of the author of OF HUMAN BONDAGE; Kieran Turner’s JOBRIATH AD (pictured), on the greatest glam rock star the world never knew; Katie Carmichael, Penny Edmiston, and Edwin Scharlau III’s UNFIT: WARD VS WARD, on the outrageous 1990s custody battle that pitted a lesbian mother against her ex-husband, a convicted murderer and deadbeat dad; and Jack Curtis Dubowsky’s SUBMERGED QUEER SPACES, an excavation of long-lost LGBT landmarks in the City by the Bay.