Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Frameline Festival’s First Dramatic Week: Stunning Celluloid, a Protest, and Parties

Cindy Lu, Ben Wilson, Kitty Buick, and Marianne Falkner celebrate the opening of Frameline 34

Frameline 34, this year's San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, presents some of the best quality celluloid treats in years. The range of films screened for the press before the festival revealed some that should be seen even if there is a crush. And if they are missed they should be seen in theaters when shown commercially.

The opening night film "The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister" had something to offer for a wide range of tastes. Revelations included lesbian and contemporary women’s sexuality without apology in Regency era England, women living free from the domination of men, and a country setting instead of the usual stuffy London environment of British period pieces.

Frameline executive director K.C. Price, "The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister" producer L. Mark Bentley, actress Maxine Peake, director James Kent, producer R. Nick Kent, and Frameline festival director Jennifer Morris

The filmmakers and star were charming and generous with their time in the pre-show Green Room setting, in contrast with the anti-Israel protesters outside. They chanted loudly and pounded on drums and seemed uninterested in explaining their viewpoints, though they had some flyers to hand out.

Anti-Israel protesters outside the Castro Theatre

On the other side of the street barriers lesbians from the Jewish Community Federation and Congregation Sha'ar Zahav engaged passersby in conversations that included media reports about the Turkish radical group on one Gaza blockade-running ship who attacked Israeli soldiers with lethal weapons. And they explained that Israel is the only Middle-Eastern country with an openly LGBT military and government officials, and that LGBT Americans and locals must hide their orientations in Gaza and the West Bank.

Pro-Israel protesters outside the Castro Theatre

Frameline’s opening night party was in Golden Gate Park at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society. Considering the multiple complaints about the "obscure location" and the buffet fare, a lot of patrons found their way out there and many went back for seconds of Fuzio pork sliders.

The Regency theme was engaged by wondrously costumed models from Dark Garden Apparel, and "Baby Jane?" star J. Conrad Frank was the striking fashion statement for the party and most of San Francisco that night.

"Baby Jane?" director John Lore, film fan Jim Oswald, and "Baby Jane?" star J. Conrad Frank

The "Curious Thing" short films were all very good and one was brilliant with its treatment of the perennial problem of straight and gay best friends veering emotionally toward a relationship crisis. This year’s "Fun in Girls’ Shorts" were more satisfying than the men’s program and the international men’s shorts. "The Golden Pin" Asian shorts were realistic, true-to-life experiences brought masterfully to the screen.

Of all the documentary films, "Uncle Bob" was the most innovative. Where else could a film subject’s relative be seen baring his emotions and body continually and with such power, and also channel someone so convincingly? This journalist knew Robert Opel, the subject, well and he would have been proud of his nephew’s creation.

"Children of God, "The Consul of Sodom," and "The String" are spellbinding, beautifully crafted films about gay men who will not accept a hidden, down-low position. Amazingly, "The String" is from Tunisia — not known to be a gay-friendly country.

Director Cheryl Dunye has done it again with her amazing, multi-layered and textured "The Owls." She guided a large diverse cast in one of the festival’s most unusual tableaus.

"8: The Mormon Proposition" is sure to unleash another spasm of hatred toward the Latter Day Saints — as guests packed into a house party in the film’s honor at the home of attorney Dave Tsai agreed.

When creative genius Bern Boyle founded what was to become the Frameline Festival 34 years ago, he could not have imagined the huge crowds and dozens of films, which is a world of difference from him and his friends’ videos listed on a single mimeographed page of paper. But the excitement then is echoed now, just immensely larger.

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