Without a doubt, San Francisco is still the mother-ship of gay
culture in the world. A terrific VIP lounge on this fabulous
ship is Frameline, the
annual San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)
Film Festival. Despite who you are, you can be a VIP guest to
the lounge—the festival welcomes all with the world's
largest showcase of LGBT cinema. All you need to do is to join
tens of thousands of others to attend the festival screenings
during this Pride month.
The tag line for this year's festival is "Find Your
Story." I am sure you will find stories at this year's
festival that you resonate personally.
From June 14-24, 2012, the 36th
San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
(Frameline36) takes place at Castro
Theater, Victoria Theater in
San Francisco, and Rialto Cinemas
Elmwood in Berkeley.
This year, the festival presents 217 films, including 89
features and 129 shorts, in 104 programs from 30 countries.
In the past few years, I have expressed my disappointment about
the lack of Asian representation in Frameline's
programing. However, not this year. I am delighted to see a
fair number of Asian films in this year's program, I call them
gaysian films. Although I am surprised that a
few anticipated gaysian films are not selected in this year's
festival, I am pleased to see the progress on the inclusion of
more gaysian cinema in the programming. And overall, this
year's film selection seems to have a higher quality compared
to the past.
As always, each film's title is linked to
program site that contains details about the filmmaker(s),
showtime, and screening venue. Each film's still image is
linked to a film's official Web site when it is available.
- Opening Night Film:
(USA 2012 | 93 min.)
Russo is one of the most important figures in the
LGBT history. He is also a pioneer of queer cinema
study and is the author of "The
Schwarz candidly tells Vito's incredibly inspiring
life story in this deeply moving
"Vito." Meantime, you will get a healthy
dose of a history lesson on queer cinema, including vast
amount of amazing historic footage.
Once again, Vito appears at Castro Theater, but on the
big screen, to exhibit his charismatic personality, his
vigorous political engagement, his intelligent academic
film research, and his unshakable passion for life,
love, and freedom.
This is certainly one of the strongest opening night
films at Frameline.
- Closing Night Film:
(Canada 2011 | 94 min.)
Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis and
Fricker are no strangers to us. However, I bet you
have never seen them together for 32 years as a lesbian
Now you can see that touching relationship on the big
screen in director Thom
Fitzgerald's hilarious new
In this immensely entertaining
Dukakis wonderfully plays the butch foul-mouthed
Stella and Brenda
Fricker plays her witty partner Dot. When Dot's
granddaughter threatens to put Dot into a nursing home,
they go extra miles in Stella's pickup truck to Canada
in order to stay together, with a little help from a
handsome drifter Pretice (Ryan
Trust me, this should be the first ticket you want to
secure at this year's Frameline. You will never forget the
experience that how you end this year's festival by
laughing with more than thousand other people together
at the Castro Theater until you fall off your seat. I am
sure you will have to buy the DVD later because you
probably won't hear what the characters are saying—
others are still laughing out loud at those previous
Fly By Night
(Short programs with total running time 85 min.)
Every year, Frameline has two traditional shorts program
In Boys Shorts" and "Fun
In Girls Shorts," which are almost always
entertaining and funny. Unfortunately, I am not feeling
anything in the Boys' Shorts this year. Luckily, there
is a fantastic shorts program
"Fly By Night" that you will be delighted.
This is a shorts program that consists seven gaysian
short films. Even almost none of the relationships
portrayed in these shorts ends well, these films are
engaging, sincere, and sometimes entertaining.
This is the first gaysian shorts program I have
seen at Framline, and I certainly hope this new trend
will continue in the future as a tradition like
"Fun in Boys Shorts."
(霰雪 | China 2011 | in Chinese | 77 min.)
If I were the one to choose only one Chinese film for
this year's Framline, I would have picked
Hong Kong based director Scud's
Actually... Sucks!" (愛很爛,
2011), which might be as provoking and controversial as
the director himself.
However, that film is surprisingly not included. Instead,
this year's Chinese language feature film is
Saxway's feature debut "Graupel
a surreal flick
that is moody, confusing, and a little bizarre by
The story involves a strange triangle love between
brothers and a woman. However, when the credits start
to roll, you probably still cannot figure out who is
in love with whom, if they are brothers, and what is
real and what is fantasy.
After the film, you might feel that you just wake up
from a dream, and the dream is the movie—you
can't quite remember what happened, but you vividly
remember one or two scenes that you are trying to make
sense of it.
Yes or No?
(อยากรัก ก็รักเลย | Thailand 2010 | in Thai | 102 min.)
By now, everyone probably has seen a heart melting
Thai drama called
"The Love of
Siam," which is about the love of two innocent looking
boys and one of them is supposedly not gay. Now, it's
girl's turn! Director Sarasawadee
comedy "Yes or
No?" creates a parallel love story to the
boy's version. This time, it's the love between
an innocent looking lesbian college student Kim and his
supposedly straight roommate Pie.
Even the plot is predictable and formulated, the film
is cute and the actors are cuter, which makes it hard
for you to dislike the film, just like how you may
feel about "The Love
(Indonesia 2011 | in Indonesian/English | 113 min.)
Even you have not seen director
Nata's previous film "Arisan!"
(2003), you will have no trouble to follow the story in
its sequel "Arisan!
2," because this film is just like another
episode from a sitcom.
Arisan means community social gathering in Indonesia. In
this film, it's the gathering among a bunch of extremely
wealthy and fashion crazed housewives, plus many gay
men. The film appears to resemble little to the life in
Indonesia we normally see in the news or on TV, if
anything at all. You might mistake the story takes
place in Los Angeles or New York City, if they were not
speaking Indonesian. Even when they speak Indonesian,
they throw in English every other sentence for no reason.
Oh, yes, somebody is dying of cancer as well in the
film, just in case you think these housewives and gay
men are not causing enough drama.
(Turkey 2011 | in Turkish/German | 107 min.)
Inspired by a true story, directors Caner
Alper and Mehmet
Binay's drama "Zenne
Dancer" tells a story about three gay men
living in Istanbul.
A German photo-journalist Daniel (Giovanni
Arvaneh) is interested in taking photographs of a
flamboyant belly dancer Can (Kerem
Can), who is trying to avoid the Turkish army's
draft. When Daniel meets Can's bearish friend Ahmet
Avic), they fall in love. However, the homophobic
culture in Turkish tradition can only bring tragedies to
these gay men.
The story is only mildly engaging and characters are
not convincing some times, but the color and the
cinematography are dazzling.
(USA 2012 | in Spanish/English | 74 min.)
Even you are not a regular club goer, you probably are
intrigued by the performer/director Wu
Tsang's feature debut
It chronicles the rise and fall of a historic night club
Silver Platter in Los Angeles since 1963. The club
begins with mostly Spanish speaking Latino immigrants
and evolves into a hot spot for LGBT patrons, with
glamorous weekly drag performances.
This uneven documentary lacks a focal point to engage
the audience. It doesn't help either when the quickly
disappearing English subtitles can't keep up with the
fast talking interviewees. However, the film offers a
rare glimpse into the operation of a gay night club that
involves constant struggle and conflicts among different
communities. Many local drag performer groups might
resonate with Silver Platter's saga.
a trailer here.
(Belgium 2012 | in Flemish/Turkish/Dutch/French/Arabic/Englis | 98 min.)
Another film about multi-culture conflicts in Turkey at
this year's Frameline is director Guy Lee
Thys's drama "Mixed
27-year-old Bram (Cem
Akkanat) was born and raised in Belgium, but plans
to honor his Turkish family's Muslim tradition by
marrying his cousin. Well, there is one problem, he
finds out he is gay and falls in love with his best
friend Kevin (Simon Van
Buyten), a 19-year-old Belgian boy.
If that's not enough drama to explode, Bram's
trouble-maker younger brother Furkan (Lukas De
Wolf) joins a radical Muslim group to cause more
grief for Bram as well as everyone else.
While the performances are decent, the story line
is inconceivable for the most parts. The film looks like a
made-for-TV drama at its best.
Children of Srikandi
(Indonesia/Germany/Switzerland 2012 | in Indonesian/English | 74 min.)
This well-made documentary is created by a group of
eight young lesbian women who call themselves
the Children of Srikandi Colllective. It's the
first documentary about lesbian women who live in the
most populated Muslim country—Indonesia.
Each of the eight young women tells a first-person story
and depicts the lives and struggle in Indonesia as a
lesbian. They have to constantly battle with the
repression from the religion and culture.
They find comfort and consolation in Srikandi,
an ancient mythological character of the
Mahabharata. The gender neutral Srikandi provides these
young women a spiritual support that they certainly can
benefit in a deeply religious society.
- A Showcase Presentation:
North Sea Texas
(Noordzee, Texas | Belgium 2011 | in Dutch | 96 min.)
Defurne's beautiful feature
debut "North Sea
Texas" is a must see at this year's
Frameline. It tells a boy's touching coming-of-age story
with great sensibility and genuine sentiment.
Set in the 1970s, 15-year-old Pim (Ben Van den
Heuvel) lives with his single mom Yvette
( Eva van der
Gucht), who is more interested in meeting men than
taking care of him. Pim falls in love with his next
door neighbor, a 18-year-old boy Gino
Naenen) while Gino's sister Sabrina
Kortekaas) has a crush on Pim.
When Gino moves away with a new French girlfriend
and Yvette disappears, Pim's fragile adolescent mind
reaches its full capacity for Pim to handle.
By new comer Ben Van den
Heuvel's superb performance, the young protagonist's
innocent yet complex feeling can be heartfelt. It
brings out all the bittersweet memories we all have gone
through when we grow up.