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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Arts + CultureMoviesWith Castro Theatre out, massive Frameline LGBTQ+ film fest...

With Castro Theatre out, massive Frameline LGBTQ+ film fest gets creative

New executive director Allegra Madsen takes on fresh challenges with an agile attitude—and innovative locations.

The first requirement, one would think, to helm a major film festival—especially Frameline, the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world, drawing lifelong connoisseurs from every queer walk of life—would be an obsessive love of movies. Luckily, Allegra Madsen, Frameline’s new executive director, has that in spades. As the festival’s director of programming for four years, she’s developed deep, community-driven events and programs that bring dozens of queer films from all over the world to the screen, representing all the many different people under the rainbow umbrella.

Acting as the interim executive director after her predecessor James Woolley left for more humid climes, to head up the Miami Film Festival, she’s been running the show for a while now. Now, she’s officially been named Frameline’s executive director—and despite all the experience, it’s still sinking in.

“How does it feel to be official?” she laughed over the phone with 48 Hills. “Well, I’ve been doing it for six months now! I didn’t think it was a big deal, except people keep stopping me and saying congratulations. It’s been so amazing the support I’ve gotten from the community and everyone who is a part of this festival. It’s given me the energy and excitement for building a new Frameline. So I guess it is a big deal.”

‘Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music’ played last year’s Frameline Film Fest.

Madsen jumps in as the festival faces a fresh challenge, beyond needing to stay on schedule with a new ED who is also the programming director (for now). With its home base, the Castro Theatre, out of commission for the foreseeable future, Frameline is feathering new nests this time around, including the nearby Roxie Theatre.

There will also be a super-exciting kickoff event: On Juneteenth, June 19, the festival aims to take over Castro Street right outside the Castro Theatre for a free hybrid festival/opening night, with a movie shown in the street and a celebratory atmosphere that welcomes new crowds for the fest’s offerings.

Luckily, Madsen’s experience as programming director comes in handy for her new job. “My kids yell at me that all I do is watch movies all the time,” Madsen said. “It’s all about looking closely at the individual components—be they films or more organizational elements—and figuring out how to impose a structure on top of them, so they work together in a cohesive whole, in a thoughtful way.

“Obviously the main component is the festival itself,” she continued. “But we do offer year-round programming, artist support programs, encore presentations, and our film distribution arm—how do we stitch them together in this current atmosphere to make them sing in harmony? That’s my first big challenge as ED. But first, we’re going to have a festival.”

For its 48th installment, that festival is going full-bore into turning bad apples into sparkling Martinelli’s. “Every year, I’ve worked at the festival, we’ve woken up every day and asked ourselves, How can we reinvent this festival, how can we overcome this new set of constraints that are being imposed on us? That’s frustrating and all of those things, but it also offers amazing opportunities to be creative, to grow. I love the Castro, I love the Castro Theatre, I love the experience that we give people there.

“This year we’re going to look different. We’re going to be out in different communities. I really want to highlight the breadth San Francisco. Last year we started regular screenings called “Neighborhood Nights” where we were out at independently owned, single screen theaters, highlighting that we have these amazing little gems scattered around San Francisco—if we don’t go to them, we’re going to lose them.

“This year, I’m building on that. Let’s go out into the city and really experience it. We don’t have to be limited by the three-block radius that we live in. I know it can be hard to get over that hill. But there’s a beautiful city out there that really needs us. We can do it, it’s a lot of fun.”

‘Chocolate Babies’ played last year’s Frameline Film Fest.

The festival’s opening event on Juneteenth has special resonance for Madsen, the first queer woman of color to be appointed to the ED position. “The year I started at the festival was the first year that Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday. On the occasion of opening the festival on Juneteenth, I knew we had to do something big and visible for the community. I don’t think there has been a celebration of Blackness and queerness own this scale in the city.

“This is our way of saying—especially in this moment of horrible attack, on all levels, on queer people and queer people of color—that we are are stronger when we come together and share in each others’ stories. It’s a very visible activation, grounded in joy and community. We don’t have to be the victims.”

And of course, with Frameline, it all comes down to movies. What are some queer films that Madsen loves, that aren’t in the festival? “Right now, everyone needs to go see the new Julio Torres film Problemista—it is super-smart and charming, it addresses the the immigrant experience and the place of the artist in the world, I just loved it. I also have to give a shout out to the bloody Love Lies Bleeding, the new Kristen Stewart movie. There’s just something about female bodybuilders that is so fascinating.

“And related to that, I’ll give a secret plug—I shouldn’t say it but I’m going to—if anybody has the opportunity to go see Pumping Iron II: The Women, from 1985, they absolutely should take it. It is a very interesting conversation about gender and femininity in the world of female bodybuilding in the ’80s. And, of course, it features some very strong women.”

FRAMELINE FILM FEST June 19-29 at various venues to be announced. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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