by Kevin M. Thomas
Frameline, the LGBT film festival, hasn’t even begun to show its age as it begins its 40th Anniversary in the Bay Area beginning June 16, 2016.
While there are not enough hours in the day to see every movie in advance, but from the over 45 films I’ve seen so far, there are few that I wouldn’t recommend or see again, making this likely the best Frameline festival ever. Here’s a few highlights from its scripted features, hoping to add more as the festival progresses, so please check back.
“Pushing Dead” is one of the festival’s best pictures. While it’s relevant subject is heavy – a man’s medical insurance plan changes for the worst as a $100 gift put him in a higher bracket, causing him to have exorbitant copays making buying his HIV medicine out of the question. While this sounds like a drama right out of today’s news, filmmaker Tom E. Brown, not only finds the humor in absurd situations, but he also shows some seldom-seen areas of San Francisco.
“Holding the Man” will definitely get kudos as its already been lauded with accolades from other international festivals. The story spawns decades of two
Australian young men who fight against their own closed-minded families for their right to love. This definitely is a sweeping love story that hits an emotional chord, and it’s no wonder as it’s based on a true story. I am not a big reader, but the book by Timothy Conigrave, whose life this is based, may likely have more insight into the beautiful love between him and his partner. Brilliant performances from entire ensemble.
“Akron” is another story of young love in which the families try to tear our lovers apart. This time around, the family isn’t
against gay love. Instead, there was an incident in town that has divided the families. The love story is fantastic and the film does a great job showing how wounds won’t disappear without treatment. The festival should also be commended to have so many features in which being gay is just part of life and is no longer the sole plot or main focus of a film’s narrative.
“Loev” is another drama that mixes light-heartedness and pain. This is a story of young Indian friends that plan a weekend together, but deep rooted desires and feelings reach a climax, causing the whole tone of the film to change. The film also balances lifestyles of an openly gay man and a closeted one as well as it mixes tone of the film. The
real and natural chemistry between the leads make you truly care about their relationship and, at times, makes it hard to watch when things get tense.
“Retake” takes us on a journey – literally and figuratively – as an emotionally scarred man (a strong performance from the normal sexy side kick Tuc Watkins) who sets off on a road trip that perhaps he might have done before, going as far as hiring a male hustler to play the role of his long term boyfriend, making him even wear specific clothes and cologne. First time director Nick Corporon shows great
promise in creating the most haunting character obsession since Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”
“Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo” starts off with one of the most sexually charged introductions of any film that I have ever seen that isn’t pornography that I suspect a lot of people will walk out. But don’t. After the frank 16 minutes of sexual scenes, the story of Theo and Hugo takes flight. The sex was almost needed to show the intensity of their relationship, which just started in the bath house in a sea of men. Now that the sex is over, the two begin an evening’s journey of fear, exploration and intimacy. It truly
seems the way many gay male relationships begin – with sex. So the frankness of the scenes are required to make the story work.
“The Closet Monster” contains a star making performance from Connor Jessup, a young Canadian who is already taking the U.S. by storm with his performance in TV’s “American Crime.” Jessup plays an emotionally scarred Oscar, who desires to become a make-up artist so that he can leave his life behind, while trying to self-heal from a mother who abandoned him and from witnessing a bashing as a child. The story, and all of its subplots, is masterfully told by Stephen Dunn, whose career I will now follow.
“Me Myself and Her” is a well-written and acted lesbian love story, of sorts. Having come out late in life and being the mother of an adult son, Federica doesn’t really like labels. With her being somewhat commitment phobic and not wanting to give up men completely, it’s hard to really call this a lesbian love story. The film boasts two excellent performances from our leads. Margherita Buy is luminous as Federica and is likely the Italian version of Meryl Streep with all of her awards. She is equally matched by Sabrina Ferilli, who is convincing as the equally successful partner who has made Federica a priority, even though the devotion may not be mutual
“Heartland” is another beautiful love story of two women. Thrown into a bigoted small town in Oklahoma, our story has a young woman ready to start her life anew after her partner passes. Like, in many stories, her family swept her lesbian relationship under the carpet. Her own mother never acknowledged the partnership. Nonetheless, a project in designing wine labels for her brother and his girlfriend is just the distraction that she needs. However, the real distraction is her brother’s uptight city slicking girlfriend who lives life on the strait and narrow…well maybe not so straight, which leads to enough drama to keep the tiny town gossiping for years. As delightful of a film as sitting on a country porch, counting stars.
“Her Story” is just further evidence that great and terrific TV content is on the web and not necessarily a network. I never would have found this gem had it not be for Frameline. This is the story of a group of lesbian and transgender women and their interwoven stories. One of the great things about this show is it answers a lot of questions about the subcultures of being transgender. So while some are straight, others are lesbians, the audience is swept into their storylines and ready to binge watch.
“BearCity 3” is the perfect way to wind down the festival. One would think a movie loses steam by its third installment but writer/director Doug Langway has managed to keep the story fresh with a trip to the woods, bringing along most of the characters we’ve grown and loved over the years. The cast of returning favorites are such a hoot that one doesn’t need to wonder why these bears are a hit in the woods.
“Front Cover” is a fun story with a fashion twist. Young New York photostylist Ryan is given the opportunity of a lifetime: work with breakout movie star from China. A culture clash if there ever was one and more fashion drama even though Miranda Priestley is no where in sight. But what happens between openly gay stylist and macho star? You’ll have to see “Front Cover” to find out…but this is a LGBT film festival after all.
“Women Who Kill” is sometimes uneven but it’s a fun romp nonetheless as two podcasters whose theme is killer women start suspecting that one of their friends might be a killer. Great supporting cast elevate the story.
“Vegas in Space” is an anniversary screening of the cult film from the 1990s. This gender bending spoof will remind us of the talent we lost years ago with the passing of Doris Fish. But this screening will be something special as it will get the Peaches Christ treatment, complete with some of her regular children of the corn and some new additions addition to the evening’s fun. Christ is a big movie fan herself and when you’re at one of her productions, it’s always like a double feature as in addition to the movie, Christ does an entire separate production.
“Suicide Kale” wins you over in its first scene in which two women are talking whether Starbucks is a coffee shop or not. This dialog is real and funny and starts the story on the right foot of four friends having brunch together. The movie tiptoes on heavy topics as it is more light-hearted and yet respectful as, at the beginning of the brunch, one of the friend’s finds a suicide note and spends the rest of the story trying to figure it out. Likely one of the realest movies you’ll ever see and I look forward to seeing it again.
“AWOL” blends lesbian and bisexual characters together and seems an earnest portrait of life in a small town – where there are so few options to find a date, let alone one whom is LGBT. The movie also features a breakout performance form Lola Kirke, who proves she’s more than her character from “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Check out our other articles on documentaries and short films. But to get tickets and more information on the festival, go to www.frameline.org.