It’s always a political moment for the world’s oldest/largest LGBTQ film festival. But this year is extra-special, alas: When was the last time we had a POTUS who claims he’s “loved” by “the gays” while he methodically advances legislation protecting that minority from bias to please his homophobic fanbase?
Though the moment may not be as nationally galvanizing as Anita Bryant or AIDS—though it should be—this year’s Frameline nonetheless strikes a particularly oppositional note. We thought we were well en route to mainstream acceptance, and perhaps we are (with society in general, if not the powers-that-be). But the venomous blowback currently at work makes it clear that the fight isn’t just “not over,” it’s turning into WW3.
Frameline’s 2019 edition—its forty-third—offers a typically diverse slate of work from around the world. The Castro Theatre opening-nighter on Thurs/20 is Chanya Button’s Vita and Virginia, a costume drama about two of the most fascinating early 20th century English literary figures—sometime lovers Virginia Woolf (played by Elizabeth Debicki) and Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton). It ends on Gay Pride Day with David Charles Rodrigues’ documentary Gay Chorus Deep South, about the SF Gay Chorus’ recent tour into the more humid regions of American conservatism.
In between there are many attractions, including a Frameline Award salute to Rodney Evans on June 26. (His Brother to Brother and new Vision Portraits will be screened as part of the tribute.) Plus numerous carry-overs from Sundance: The dysfunctional family comedy Before You Know It, period lesbian romance To The Stars, evangelical biopic Sister Aimee, and documentary The Disappearance of My Mother, in which gay filmmaker Beniamino Barrese endlessly pesters his former supermodel mum. There’s also State of Pride, a new documentary from SF’s greatest gay filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, albeit a lesser effort patently promoting gay YouTube “stars.”
Here’s just a few highlights among Frameline’s imposing 2019 program:
This Is Not Berlin
This exceptional period piece is a marvel, portraying the high times of two restless, privileged Mexico City adolescents as they get sucked (ahem) into the wild life of that sprawling burg’s punk scene circa 1986. It’s a polymorphously perverse joy ride that shouldn’t be missed.
Lovers just briefly, but long-term political and business soulmates, Selma Miriam and Noel Furie were among the founders of a Bridgeport, CT restaurant that blazed a trail of vegetarian lesbian feminism starting nearly fifty years ago. It’s a testament to the appeal of Douglas Tirola’s documentary that their personalities remain as improvingly tasty as the cuisine photographed with salivation-triggering aplomb here.
One of many SF-centric features at this year’s festival, Tom Shepard’s documentary profiles four real-life protagonists escaping persecution (in Syria, the Congo and Angola) to seek hopeful shelter in our fair city. But even before the immigration-unfriendly advent of the Trump administration, their flight is hobbled by the considerable barriers of U.S. governmental red tape.
A loving look at the artistic legacy of pioneering lesbian filmmaker and multimedia artist Barbara Hammer, who died last year of ovarian cancer in SF earlier this year at age 79. It’s a treasure trove of archival footage from one of the most important American artists of the last half-century.
You Don’t Nomi
Though unavailable for preview, we can hardly resist this documentary about the movie that has displaced Valley of the Dolls as possibly the gayest movie ever. Yes, that would be Showgirls, the 1995 campsterpiece that pretty much destroyed the careers of everyone involved, though it certainly did a favor to a whole lotta drag queens. Another film-centric film in Frameline is Scream Queen, about the closeted gay actor who saw his career destroyed by a deliberately if covertly queer 1986 sequel to the horror hit A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Marc Heustis: Impresario of Castro Street
Dragged (ahem) back to the Castro Theatre where he’s feted so many retro stars is SF legend Heustis, a filmmaker (Whatever Happened to Susan Jane?, Sex Is…) turned celebrated celebator of cinematic celebrities. Multiple stars of the aforementionedValley of the Dolls, The Poseidon Adventure, Mommy Dearest, Carrie, and umpteen other celluloid gems have enjoyed his live extravaganzas. He’ll be taking the spotlight at last at this Sun/23 tribute…though it takes place at the Victoria Theatre, not the Castro.
Thurs/20-Sun/30, various SF venues. www.frameline.org