Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frameline Film Festival Week Two: Remarkable Shorts and an Unusual Documentary

Colorful film fans Vincent Costa and Burl Willes outside the Roxie Theater

There were no protests of Israeli shorts at Frameline's San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival as there had been on opening night outside the Castro Theatre. And the freedom of LGBT’s in Israel was expressed on the screen for all to see.

Back on June 17 pro-Palestinian protesters who objected to Frameline receiving support from the Israeli consulate loudly shouted and loudly chanted along with drums. The pro-Israeli counter-protesters engaged passers-by in conversations about the Israeli soldiers who were attacked with weapons when they boarded a ship violating the Gaza blockade. And the lesbians from the Jewish Community Federation and Congregation Sha’ar Zahav spoke earnestly to passersby about how they and locals could be open about their orientation in Israel, but not in Gaza or the West Bank.

The Experimentals shorts shown at the Roxie Theater on June 26 was cleverly hosted by Rodney Austin. Austin was the lead singer of Pearl Necklace, a notorious band with a sexually-explicit name and lyrics. The huge show of his punked-out artwork at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts rivaled the wall space of Andy Warhol displays.

Mic Sweney, filmmaker Rudy Lemcke, and Beth Pickens

Included in "The Experimentals" shorts was filmmaker Rudy Lemcke’s mesmerizing and astute "Gay Pool Party" which expertly switched from footage of a gay male pool party to street protests and vignettes of police beatings. Considering that the party footage appears to pre-date the Stonewall Riots in New York and the Tavern Guild incident in San Francisco, it is likely the cavorting men faced frightening police and thug harassment, and worse, when they left the relative safety in numbers seen on the video, which was loaned by the GLBT Historical Society. It was an era when gay men were hunted.

Lemcke’s earlier film, "Where the Buffalo Roam," inter-cut video of endangered buffalo with San Francisco ACT UP members at their die-in protests in the 1990s. The footage of mountains of buffalo skulls was even more chilling when the viewers realized that most of the ACT UP protesters lying in the streets were only in their 20s and the majority were dead from AIDS within a few years.

Filmmakers Matthew Mishory and Edward Singletary

Another remarkable short film included in "The Experimentals" was "Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman," a tribute to English experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman, who is still unequaled for his creative genius in the use of homo-eroticism, symbolism, and unexpectedly intense imagery. Director Matthew Mishory and producer Edward Singletary spoke eloquently about their admiration for the deceased Jarman, and it was a wondrous revelation for their fans when they declared during the Q&A that the short would evolve to become a feature film.

A stunning scene of the young Jarman convincing a groundskeeper to strip naked and pose as St. Sebastian with bloodied arrows and an expression of anguish tops all fine art paintings and film footage of that subject — and not just because there was no customary, clinging loin cloth. The subject of St. Sebastian in painting has been the first awareness for huge numbers of gay men of their sexual orientation for hundreds of years, so its primal power in the film cannot be underestimated.

Filmmakers Mattilde Bernstein Sycamore and Gina Carducci

Also part of "The Experimentals" was "All That Sheltering Emptiness" by directors Mattilde Bernstein Sycamore and Gina Carducci. Their shocking and heartrending short is a seven-minute compression of Bernstein’s books and readings, with all of the horror of parental sexual abuse and its aftermath.

Artist and singer Camille O’Grady and filmmaker Robert Oppel

Robert Opel was the San Francisco erotic gallery owner and photographer who streaked at the Academy Awards, and his nephew Robert Oppel created an incredible and unusual feature-length documentary about him, "Uncle Bob," shown June 26 at the Roxie Theater, in which the nephew channels his uncle in a performance that makes for a new type of documentary art form. He satirizes public appearances, talk shows, performance art, and huge celebrity egos and their compulsively exposed personal lives, and he is on screen doing it naked. This journalist knew Opel the gallery owner and the film captures his creativity, generous party-hosting, and promotion of artists and photographers. Opel would be proud of his nephew the filmmaker.

When filmmaker Bern Boyle founded what was to become the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival 34 years ago, he could not have anticipated this year’s ten-day festival that grew from his and some friends’ videos listed on a single mimeographed piece of paper. But the thrill of new movies in an LGBT festival has not subsided.

An adoring fan with filmmaker Mattilde Bernstein Sycamore

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