Frameline Features the Best of LGBT Cinema
Jim Van Buskirk
San Franciscans are well represented at Frameline36, the annual LGBT film festival that runs from June 14 through 24 at the Castro Theatre, Roxie Film Center and Victoria Theatres, as well as the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley. The opening night film, Vito, directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, chronicles the life and work of activist Vito Russo, whose lectures on Hollywood’s portrayal of homosexuality eventually turned into the influential book С and later documentary С The Celluloid Closet. The film features interviews with local figures Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, F. Allen Sawyer, Nancy Stoller, Armistead Maupin, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Jenni Olson, and archival footage of Bette Davis, Harvey Milk, and Ronald Reagan.
The closing night film is Thom Fitzgerald’s Cloudburst, starring Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as an elder lesbian couple who break free from a nursing home and head to the Canadian border to get married. In the intervening eleven days, hundreds of films will be screened representing more than thirty countries, including Iran, Chile, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey.
The Centerpiece Documentary film is Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu, about the late activist David Kato’s role in the Ugandan LGBT rights movement. The Centerpiece Narrative film is Ira Sachs’s drama, Keep the Lights On, about the ten-year relationship of a couple living in New York City.
The festival will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of New Queer Cinema, a term coined in 1992 by film critic and academic B. Ruby Rich, by presenting her with the annual Frameline award, as well as screenings of Gregg Araki’s The Living End, Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman, Alex Sichel’s All Over Me, and Ana Kokkinos’ Head On.
Potrero Hill is represented by Cheryl Dunye, who teaches at California College of Arts. In her narrative film, Mommy is Coming, “sexy stud Claudia grapples with her vulnerability and a desire for more intimacy with her ice-queen femme girlfriend Dylan. This raunchy queer sex filled romance features a cast of top porn stars including Pap’ Coxxx and Jiz Lee.” And Hill resident Laura Green’s Disaster (a personal geography) is a nine-minute short preoccupied with earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural phenomena.
There are many shorts by filmmakers who live in the City and/or filmed here, as well as several full-length films. Submerged Queer Spaces by composer Jack Curtis Dubowsky is described as “a colorful stroll through San Francisco queer history in this urban archeological expedition that goes well beyond the Castro and begins long before the first Pride parade.” The late, great George Kuchar wrote about Empire of Evil: “This high octane drama that I made with my students at the SF Art Institute chronicles the moral decline of its heroine, as the love of a man she obsesses over drives her over something else: a cliff into hell. It’s a free fall all the way to the bottom destination, and there’s a heck of a lot of nice looking, young people along for the ride. The picture has a fallen hero too and Gay Festivals take note: his slide into a homo-erotic environment makes for some slippery slopes worth keeping greasy!”
Also look for Julie Wyman’s Strong! documenting Cheryl Hayworth who won a bronze medal in weight lifting at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and Mark Freeman’s Transgender Tuesdays: A Clinic in the Tenderloin, about how, as AIDS raged in the 1980s, San Francisco opened the country’s first primary care clinic for transgender people, who “came for the hormones and stayed for the healthcare” which had long been denied them.
Unfit: Ward vs. Ward directed by Edwin Scharlau III chronicles the Florida custody battle between devoted mother and out lesbian Mary Ward and her ex-husband, convicted murderer John Ward, and features Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Tickets for Frameline36 can be purchased at frameline.org.
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