Frameline’s Documentaries: Great Stories of History, Pride and Self-Worth

by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev

“50 Years of Fabulous”

Frameline 42 is upon us and from the titles, I’ve seen, this promises to be their best LGBTQ film festival ever.

Starting June 14 and running 10 days in several Bay Area venues, the international festival opens with a poignant and provocative film, “TransMilitary.”


“TransMilitary” in no uncertain terms shows us that the military is the largest employer of LGBTQ personnel. Yet, while in many ways, it’s still a “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment, those who are transgender have a tougher fight ahead of them – trying to serve their country in the sexual identity (and pronoun) of their choice.

Fighting against people being uncomfortable they’re in the “wrong” barracks and bathrooms, these individuals simply want to fight for their country and not fight other enlistees.

The movie focuses on a handful of trans people who show their bravery and strength isn’t just aimed at serving in the armed forces but to help pave the wave for future individuals. A must-see and a great way to start the festival.

While it’s almost impossible to see every movie (but I do try) I am limited on time between the announcement of the festival and/or some movies don’t have advanced screenings. But here is a list that encompasses some of my favorites plus mentions of some anticipated films I’ve yet to see.

Other documentaries that I am so glad I saw include:


“Man Made,” a picture that is perhaps the best film in the festival to celebrate diversity, self-love, and acceptance. Following four individuals, the movie focuses on their preparation and reasoning behind competing in the Tran FitCon Bodybuilding competition, the only trans competition of its kind in the world. The movie isn’t about winning, as they all have in their own way, and it shows what it takes to compete in a bodybuilding competition and the sacrifices you make and the struggles involved when you add the word “trans” to the competition.

“Nothing to Lose”

“Nothing to Lose” explores bodies in a whole new way – it’s a dance piece that is designed using overweight people – or those who don’t fit in the “norm” of a dancer’s body.  The choreographer takes into account the talents of the dancers but how their more ample bodies move, thanks to their girth that sometimes causes a certain jiggle that can never be found in a thin dancer. The finale showcasing the dance is a beautiful thing to watch.

“Every Act of Life” is a beautiful portrait of one of our best playwrights – four-time Tony winner Terrence McNally. The film shows the loves of McNally’s life – and while some of them are men, it’s also the love of the theatre and the written word. McNally has been a strong voice in the gay community, being one of the first to bring gay characters out of the shadows and into the light. Further, his love of theatre isn’t just devoted to characters from his groundbreaking works such as “The Ritz,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “The Lisbon Traviata,” but he also loves theatre with a more commercial (read straight) appeal, having written the books to “Ragtime,” “Master Class,” “The Full Monty” and the current “Anastasia,” coming to San Francisco this fall. I’ve always been a fan of his work. Now, I am a fan of the man.

“The Rest I Make Up”

Speaking of writers, “The Rest I Make Up” is a wonderful showcase of a playwright I never heard of:  Maria Irene Fournes.  This loving tribute to the writer shows how she was an inspiration to future generations of writers – female, male, gay, straight – and how her work helped bring experimental theatre to the limelight. For a writer I never heard of, she managed to earn a record number 9 Obie Awards (Off-Broadway Tony-like awards) between 1965 and 2000.

“50 Years of Fabulous” has a great local appeal and explores the Imperial Court system and how it started in San Francisco. While it’s grown with chapters worldwide and is still known as the largest and original charitable organizations, the movie focuses on the 50th anniversary Coronation Ball and its contestants for Empress, while dolling out facts about the importance of the organization and how they celebrate pride.

“Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” blow the lid off gossip and makes the “Happy Hooker” and Heidi Fleiss seem like amateurs when it comes to setting up the rich and famous in sexual trysts. There’s nothing left unsaid and no secret kept, Scotty was Hollywood’s biggest pimp finding men for men in a time when all actors were “forced” to be straight by the studio system. Actors were able to keep up the facade as Scotty would get them all the dick they wanted. Catch the film and find out the what actors got lucky with Scotty’s bevy of beef – and who was insatiable.

“Dykes, Camera, Action!” shows the growth and stronger presence of female filmmakers, giving them the opportunity to make movies about women and for women (and men!) who don’t have to rely on men to tell stories about women from the man’s point of view. It’s a strong statement and empowering.

“When the Beat Drops” introduces us to “bucking.” A dance move that first started in the South by female cheerleaders and was adopted by young men who weren’t permitted to cheer but can certainly make the moves their own in private clubs and competitions. It’s a celebration of dance more than anything and shows how certain popular elements can take off and become popular in all communities. After all, while Madonna “vogued,” she didn’t invent it. But smart enough to help bring it to the mainstream.

“The Drag Roast of Heklina”

“The Drag Roast of Heklina” is definitely a movie for the lighter side of documentaries as it’s literally a roast of San Francisco’s premiere gay iconic queen. There’s so much shade and T spilled that the theatre it was filmed in that there’s still a clean-up needed on aisle bitchery as guests from Peaches Christ to Alaska Thunderfuck to Julie Brown not only make jokes at Heklina’s expense but at each other.

For documentaries I yet and hope to see include “Southern Pride,” a return to a bigoted part of the south and those trailblazers bring pride to community, “McQueen,” focusing on the life and death of British designer and couturier Alexander McQueen, “Believer,” a profile on Imagine Dragon’s Mormon frontman who turns out to be an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and “Alone in the Game” shows how far we’ve come being out in sports and yet there’s still a distance to go. And, of course, who wouldn’t want to see the untold stories of “Studio 54.”

Our history is rich and long and many chapters of it are explored at this year’s festival. For more information and tickets, go to