Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Frameline 33—San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Although much progress has been made since Stonewall Riots forty years ago, the struggle for equality in the LGBT community continues, and still there is a long way to go. While many states have legalized gay marriage, the notorious Proposition 8 took away the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival—Frameline has been part of the LGBT history to reflect and document the struggle, the progress, as well as setbacks. It continues to tell the LGBT stories via cinema.

With 96 programs, including 80 feature films and 139 shorts from 32 countries, Frameline 33 will take place June 18-28, 2009 at Castro Theater, Roxie Theater, Victoria Theater, and Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley.

Despite the fact that we are still in recession and most film festivals increase the admission fees, Frameline 33's ticket prices remain unchanged. However, the number of screenings seems reduced, and many films are only get to shown once at a venue other than Castro Theater which has the more seats. How does this matter? Well, that means if one waits till the last minute, the tickets might be all gone for that movie, leaving only one option—standing in a rush line to score a ticket.

Besides the always entertaining "Fun in Boys' Shorts" and "Fun In Girls' Shorts" (no pun intended), this year's festival provides a wide range of films that will make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, make us angry, and make us feel to be part of the community and the history.

However, I have to say that I am a little disappointed by weak presence of Asian films at this year's festival. I have heard a lot about "Permanent Residence" (永久居留 | Hong Kong 2009) and I bet all my money that this film would be included in this year's festival. I lost. Let's hope next year's festival will be different and have more Asian films or films about queer Asian.

Here are a few feature films that are worth seeing.

  • Born in '68 (Nés en 68 | France 2008 | in French | 173 min.)

    Spanning over almost four decades, Born in '68 (Nés en 68 | France 2008 | in French | 173 min.) is a beautiful epic film that tells a story about idealism, passion, politics, and love. Although it's a quite a long film, the audience won't look at their watches because the story is captivating and the characters are fascinating. The film starts with the student riots of 1968 in France during the hippie era, and the film chronicles all the way to the current struggle with the AIDS epidemic, and the issues the world is facing in a time of post 9/11.

    This film is particularly fitting to be screened in San Francisco, because the city has the culture, history, and spirit that remarkably resemble the story lines in this film.

    Yannick Renier, ThÈo Frilet in BORN in 68

    This is by far the best film I have seen at this year's Frameline, and it just might be your best three hours at the festival.

  • Soundless Wind Chime (无声风铃 | Hong Kong/Switzerland 2009 | in Cantonese/Mandarin/German/English | 110 min.)

    One of the few Asian films at this year's festival is Hong Kong director Kit Hung's (洪榮傑) "Soundless Wind Chime" (无声风铃 | Hong Kong/Switzerland 2009 | in Cantonese/Mandarin/German/English | 110 min.). Loosely based on his real life experience, Hung stylishly tells a personal story about love between two lonely souls coming from foreign lands and struggling to survive in Hong Kong.

    Despite the weak story and unlikable characters, the exquisite cinematography and touching music scores are unforgettable and will stick with you long after the film.

    Soundless Wind Chime

    Gorgeous Lu Yulai (吕玉来) ("Peacock (孔雀)") gives a terrific performance as the immigrant young man from Beijing who falls in love with a street bum from Switzerland (why?). If the Swiss guy were a local Hong Kong boy, the story would have been more interesting. But, that would be a different movie as well.

  • Boy (Philippines 2009 | in Tagalog | 80 min.)

    Auraeus Solito, the director of charming "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros" and the delightful "Tuli," brings to the festival his new film "Boy" (Philippines 2009 | in Tagalog | 80 min.). It tells a story about a teenager poet who falls in love with a macho dancer, tenderly, when he is not obsessing with his fish tanks.

    This film continues the tradition in Solito's films that a young boy occupies the center stage as the protagonist who pursues his love innocently, or the lack of it in this film by buying the other one.


    I wish the casting of the film would have been different to make the characters more convincing and to act better.

  • Prodigal Sons (USA 2008 | 86 min.)

    If you think your life is tough and full of drama, wait until you see Kimberly Reed 's feature debut documentary "Prodigal Sons" (USA 2008 | 86 min.). It tells director's personal mind-boggling story about the relationship among her family members including her adopted first brother Marc who becomes mentally ill after traumatic brain injury, her gay brother, and her supportive loving mother; and of course, about their reactions on her transition from a star quarterback in high school into a woman.

    It's courageous for the director to tell this incredible story to the world. It's a remarkable process to make peace and reconcile with her family members, and mostly importantly, a second coming out process to herself.

    Prodigal Sons

  • The Country Teacher (Venkovský ucitel | Czech Republic 2008 | in Czech | 113 min.)

    One sure thing about Czech drama "The Country Teachers" (Venkovský ucitel | Czech Republic 2008 | in Czech | 113 min.) is that it's not a happy film to watch because almost all of their characters are coping with unrequited love. I am sure many people can identify with these characters, because we might all have similar experiences at some points in our lives. And, those experiences are pure torture.

    Pavel Liska brilliantly portraits a country teacher who leaves his boyfriend and escapes to a village. He stays at a ranch to tutor a teenager boy. While he cannot return the attention from the boy's mom, he also cannot suppress the urge toward the boy.

    The Country Teachers

    The emotional struggle among these characters is absolutely unforgettable.


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