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Review - Frameline30: San Francisco LGBT Film Festival
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San Francisco Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Film Festival

 

Frameline 30celebrates a milestone this week with the 30th anniversary of the San Francisco International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festivalshowcasing United States feature films, world cinema features, documentaries, shorts and family film.  The festival highlights the current state of queer cinema with an extraordinary collection of films playing June 15-25th at the Castro, Roxie, Victoria, Empire and Parkway theatres.

 

We’ve had a chance to preview a number of selections and can say that this year’s offerings represent a new level of attainment in gay cinema--the acting is powerful all around, the guys are cuter, the girls are cuter, the direction and production values are superior and the themes are particularly substantive, current and relevant.  Several important works of art are showcased.  At the very least, we recommend you check it out. (Dates and times of screenings can be found at www.frameline.org)  Here is our take on some of the offerings:

 

 

Another Gay Movie

(directed by Todd Stephens, 92 minutes, 2006 USA)

 

Not for the squeamish!  Four horny gay teens make a pact to lose their anal virginity before the end of the summer.  A send up of raunchy, rowdy teen sex comedies, Another Gay Movie pushes the envelope in its celebration of gay sexuality.  No teen angst here—being gay is as natural as home-made quiche.  Despite some unevenness, director Todd Stephens (Co-Producer/Writer of Edge of Seventeen) presents some very sexy scenes amid some decidedly extreme moments which may be too much for some viewers to handle. If Porky’s, American Pie, There’s Something About Mary, Eurotrip, and Scary Movie are your kind of flicks, then you’ll likely find Another Gay Movie to be a hilarious extension of the genre.

 

 

Boy Culture 

(directed by Q. Alan Brocka, 87 minutes, 2006 USA)

 

A hunky young gay hustler named X is up for almost anything that pays, but is careful with his own heart and not past his own dreams of love and lust for his roommate Andrew, a dreamboat with one foot out of the closet.  His other roommate, teenaged Joey has a smoldering crush on X.  But X’s world is rocked when he meets a new client, Gregory, a sophisticated older man seeming more interested in X’s mind and dilemmas than in his usual stud services.  X is given the opportunity to see different sides of himself which results in some scary vulnerability and insightful resolution.  Directed with style, written with a deft mix of irony, pathos and sexiness, and featuring a handsome cast of studs, along with exceptional acting by young and old alike, Boy Culture displays both a naturalness and a rare chemistry between the actors that make it absorbing viewing while providing insightful commentary on contemporary gay culture.

 

 

Boys School

 
Another selection of shorts showing that school can be a tough place for a budding homosexual.  Homo High School depicts Daniel’s confusion when his parents transfer him to a new school where he’s taught to mince, lisp and ‘throw like a girl’.  While the film could benefit from a larger budget and more deft handling, it’s point is well made and welcome. Boys Grammar presents bullying taken to unimaginably violent extremes and may disturb some viewers even while its point remains murky.  This compilation is particularly notable for Sissy Frenchfry, a film about West Beach High, where the school’s most popular kid (who is named Sissy Frenchfry) must fight conservative newcomer Bodey McDodey in the election for student body president (which derives its inspiration from the current so-called cultural wars).
 
 
Broken Sky

(directed by Julian Hernandez, 140 minutes, 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles, 2005 Mexico)

 

A breakthrough film of great emotional depth.  The second feature of director Julian Hernandez follows university students Jonas and Gerardo who share a ravishing love and sexual abandon for one another until Jonas’ attention turns to another young man.  Powerful, impassioned, compelling performances by the striking leads combine with bravura direction, gorgeous use of color, artistic restraint and daring yet hypnotic pacing to create a uniquely satisfying achievement.

 

 

Camp Out 

(directed by Kirk Marcolina and Larry Grimaldi, 78 minutes, video, 2005 USA)

 

A milestone achievement--a documentary about the first overnight Bible Camp retreat  for gay youth. The camp is the longtime dream of Pastor Jay and other counselors who’s compassionate commitment to helping Christian youth is supportive and non-judgemental.  The film follows ten young gay Christian or questioning Christians which include Christine, a hyperactive Elvis obsessed loner, Jesse, the shy camp hunk, Thomas, a pious kid who chants devotional prayers and Tim, an often depressed recovering drug addict.  Echoing reality-tv, the documentary is a fascinating look at the religious impulse and religious alienation.  This film is the first film to bridge the gap between homosexuality and Christianity and is long overdue.

 

 

Colma: The Musical

(directed by Richard Wong, 119 minutes, video, 2006 USA)

 

The city of Colma, California is famed as the place where space-starved San Franciscans have buried their loved ones for generations.  Over a million people are buried in the town of Colma, which possesses the distinction of being the only incorporated city in America where the dead outnumber the living.  Colma is the setting for Richard Wong and H.P. Mendoza’s Colma: The Musical, a hip, unapologetic and refreshing ode to the genre, boasting catchy melodies, smart lyrics and appealing performances.  Made with obvious love and integrity, this exuberant, impressively shot and directed piece has all the earmarks of an instant cult classic, though it could very easily hold its own with mainstream audiences.

 

 

The Conrad Boys

(directed by Justin Lo, 94 minutes, 35mm, 2005 USA)

 

First-time director Justin Lo stars as Charlie Conrad, a strait-laced Chinese American Jewish boy raising his 9-year-old brother, Ben, after the death of their single Mom.  Charlie becomes attracted to good-looking Jordan, a mysterious drifter around the same time his long-absent, now-repentant father shows up wanting to reconnect to Ben and Charlie.  The sound is well recorded and a story is put together, but the actors recite their lines at each other and Lo’s greenness as a writer and director keeps the film from being engaging or reaching the quality level of other films in the festival.

 

 

Crush

 

A selection of shorts whose theme details how having a crush on a guy can take over your life and even get you into trouble.  A young man searches for another on the Mexican Riviera leaving it all up to chance in Emilio’s Eyes.  A teenager embarks on a road trip with his best friend when a turn of events leads to an unexpected adventure in Night Swimming.  A volatile ex-con will stop at nothing to keep a date with the guy he met online in First Date—a decidedly uneven well-acted quirky offering.  And you are unlikely to forget Bugcrush, the story of Ben, a small-town high school loner whose fascination with Grant, a dangerously seductive new kid leads him into the sinister.  The level of acting, creativity and filmic sense of these entries put these films a cut above others, though the endings are decidedly off the beaten path.

 

 

Eleven Men Out

(directed by Robert I. Douglas, 35mm, Icelandic with English subtitles, 85 minutes, 2005 Iceland/Finland/United Kingdom)

 

Pro soccer star Ottar Thor comes out as gay, to the surprise of management, teammates, father, mother, ex-wife, teenaged son, and brother.  Kicked off the team as a result, he joins a much lower-ranked team of gay players whose league status suddenly elevates.  Problem is, other teams won’t play the ‘queer’ team.  What could have been a clichéd film contains many moments of humor and drama with realistic characters and a fresh ending.  Handsome Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson stars as the soccer player.  Nicely photographed with a fine supporting cast.

 

 

Fun in Boys Shorts

 

This compilation includes Spaceboy, a cute little thing about a sexy astronaut who lands in the woods near Jason’s house.  In Latch Key, two brothers plot separately for some after-school fun before Mom gets home.  And Available Men employs clever dialogue as it shows what might happen when a straight Hollywood agent and a single gay man mistake each other for the men they were supposed to meet.  The other films are examples of filmmakers’ use of their personal artistic expression.

 

 

God & Gays: Bridging the Gap

(directed by Luane Beck, 95 minutes, video, 2006 USA)

 

Revealing, insightful interviews with practicing gay Christians.  Featured are former Exodus (“gay cure”) counselors, Jerry Falwell’s ex-ghostwriter, gay ministers, mothers, sons, daughters—all of whom have worthwhile things to share about religion, Christianity, the experience of being gay, and really practicing one’s religion.  This hot-button topic’s time has come as religion is now faced with resolving the issues raised if it is to remain relevant in the lives of its followers.  Particularly memorable segments include a brave mother whose loss of her gay daughter opened her heart, an Inner Light minister whose inner light shines in her benignly provocative intelligent comments, and an activist gay minister who was Jerry Falwell’s ghostwriter, among many others.  While there is an occasional heavy-handedness, this is one of the most intelligent compilations of views on God and gays one is likely to encounter, and the documentary will itself be a force for good in helping religious practice to return to the true spirit and spirituality of its teachings.

 

 

Innocent

(directed by Simon Chung, 80 minutes, video, in Cantonese, Mandarin and English subtitles, 2005 Canada/Hong Kong)

 

Seventeen-year-old Eric reluctantly emigrates with his parents from Hong Kong to suburban Toronto.  Cultural adjustment, peer pressure, family expectations, and drama within the family, added to his emerging homosexuality, complicate his life as he explores his attraction to his handsome cousin, a schoolmate, a middle-aged lawyer and a kitchen worker.  Well-acted, absorbing storytelling graces this touching coming-of-age drama.

 

 

Like a Brother

(directed by Bernard Alapetite & Cyril Legann, 56 minutes, video, in French with English subtitles, 2005 France) 

Boomerang

(directed by Nicolas Breviere, 26 minutes, 35mm, in French with English subtitles, 2005 France)

 

This pair of French films follow the passion of young gays’ sexual explorations as they search for love.  Like a Brother introduces 19-year-old Zack who has just moved to gay Paris from a small French town.  As he strives to live his life and fulfill his desires, lingering feelings for his best friend Romain make it difficult to let go of the past.  This poetic film achieves a rare poignancy in its depiction of two friends who share a special closeness but are at different ‘places’ in their lives.  The narrative jumps back and forth in time, not always clearly or deftly, but always interestingly.  An affirming story about the growth of a gay person, Boomerang tells the story of a young man whose sexual obsession drives him to the brink of madness.  Reminiscent of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, the film contains several memorable moments and a fine musical score.

 

 

A Love to Hide

(directed by Christian Faure, 103 minutes, 35mm, in French with English subtitles)

 

An elegant, nuanced drama capturing the horror of the Nazis, A Love to Hide, set in Paris in 1942 boasts superb production values and absorbing drama. Two young gay lovers in occupied France, Jean and Phillipe, risk their lives in hiding a Jewish childhood friend, Sarah, whose family has been killed by the Gestapo.  As they struggle to survive, Jean’s black-sheep brother, a Nazi collaborator, arrives, setting tragic events in motion. Jean is exposed as gay and falsely accused of having an affair with a Nazi officer; whirlwind events quickly ensue.  A Love to Hide contains meticulous attention to period detail, elegant cinematography, excellent acting and historical relevance, all of which makes for a superior film.

 

 

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

(directed by George Bamber, 88 minutes, 35mm, 2005 USA)

 

Based on a comic strip by Eric Orner, this live-action film tells the story of 26 year old Ethan, attractive, charming and trying not to screw up his new relationship.  Ethan’s former boyfriend wants to sell the house, so Ethan must find his own place or move in with his new boyfriend while a thoroughly depressed realtor just out of prison attempts to sell the house.  Part screwball comedy, part over-the-top farce, the film addresses questions and concerns of the gay community as the plots twists and turns move through the pitfalls of modern gay life. 

 

Ethan is played appealingly by Daniel Letterle (last seen as the straight hunk in the musical theatre camp outing, Camp). The efforts of the very capable cast are marred by some unevenness and heavy handed treatment, but the cast of characters makes a strong impression and all the cute frolicking will most likely find welcome response in its intended audience.

 

 

Rainbow’s End

(directed by Jochen Hick & Christian Jentzsch, 75 minutes, video, in various languages with English subtitles, Germany 2006)

 

With near-equality through same-sex marriage achieved in some parts of Europe, why should gay men and lesbian women continue to fight for basic human rights?  There is no more effective or compelling answer than this powerful documentary detailing inspiring first-person stories of real-life people.  Focusing on international events, the film follows several stories including a gay couple in Amsterdam who live in constant fear from relentless threats by a local gang, gay activists addressing the United Nations in Geneva, the volatile struggle of the gay pride movement in Poland, an interview with the gay mayor of Berlin, gay Muslims, Egypt’s oppression of gays, and much more.  A real eye-opener—shocking and disturbing, powerful and important.  A must-see film.

 

 

Saving Marriage

(directed by Mike Roth and John Henning, 90 minutes, video, 2006 USA)

 

When the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple’s right to marry in 2003, a battle ensued to amend the state constitution to override the court’s decision.  Last-minute lobbying, phone calls, mass demonstrations and closely fought election campaigns unfolded across the state for more than two years.

 

Filmmaker Mike Roth followed the events and interviewed lawyers, lobbyists and organizers as well as gay couples who married.  The strength of this documentary is that it puts a human face on the issue and follows the lives of real peoples’ efforts to secure basic human rights in a battle still being waged.  A moving and cathartic film, even when you already know all the details.

 

 

Sitcom

Directed by Francois Ozon, 87 minutes, 35mm in French with English subtitles, 1998 France)

 

Directed by noted filmmaker, Francois Ozon, Sitcom is a French farce where shocking behavior suddenly runs amok in an upper-middle-class family.  This film is so wacky it’s hard to describe.  What if Ozzie and Harriet and June and Ward Cleaver decided to partner swap?  What if Richie Cunningham got sweet for Ralph Malph, or what if Jan Brady was a lesbian?  Get the idea?  You’ll find it hard to find a sexual variation or proclivity that is not represented in this outrageous comedy.

 

 

Time to Leave

(directed by Francois Ozon, 85 minutes, in French with English subtitles, 2005 France)

 

A handsome, cavalier young man discovers he will shortly die and so begins his perhaps first experience with introspection.  Francois Ozon’s best film to date—a contemporary Dark Victory as if directed by Ingmar Bergman.  Astonishingly mature, ravishingly shot and acted, this is the must-see film of Frameline 30.

 

 

Two Drifters

(directed by Joao Pedro Rodrigues, 101 minutes, 35mm, in Portuguese with English subtitles, 2005 Portugal)

 

A film probing the depths of romantic obsession.  When Pedro, the love of young bartender Rui, is killed in a car crash, Rui sinks into suicidal despair.  Meanwhile, Odete, a psychologically disturbed temptress fixates on the memory of Pedro even to the point of writhing on his gravestone.  She taunts Rui and eventually loses all sense of self leading to a bizarre transgressive climax.  If you saw the director’s previous film, O Fantasma, you know what to expect in this film.  The fine acting, splendid photography and set pieces are elegant, but the pacing will probably prove off-putting.  But male nudity that includes hunky Rui and Odete’s handsome ex-lover, is reason to enjoy the film on a carnal level, while Odete’s transgender transformation is a uniquely bizarre experience.

 

 

Vacationland

(directed by Todd Verow, 114 minutes, video, 2006 USA)

 

In mid-1980’s Maine, Joe, a cute high school senior dreams of attending art school, becomes a live-in model for an eccentric gay man looking for non-sexual companionship, and develops his relationship with sexy football-player friend, Andrew.  Shot on video, the camera work is rather impressive, though the sound recoding contains a substantial amount of background noise that diminishes the production value.  The story is somewhat meandering, and continuity is occasionally a problem, but several erotic sequences along with generally good acting make this a decidedly interesting low-budget production.

 

 

Whole New Thing

(directed by Amnon Buchbinder, 92 minutes, 35mm, 2005 Canada)

 

When home-schooled adolescent Emerson, raised by hippie parents in Nova Scotia, must suddenly attend the local public school to boost his math skills, the ‘whole new’ experience proves to be a rite of passage, especially since he’s used to smoking pot and relaxing nude in the sauna with his parents and their friends. 

 

At school, he develops a crush on his teacher, Mr. Grant, who is gay, but principled and professional enough to keep a healthy distance from his precocious student.  Emerson pushes things too far and his parents are too caught up in their problems and their own ‘new things’ to notice.  Fine performances by the cast  and adroit, sensitive direction make Whole New Thing a touching and quirky coming-of-age tale.

 

 

 

© 2006 Celluloid Dreams

 

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