Now Playing! Local History Leads the Parade at Frameline

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Still from 'State of Pride.' (Courtesy of Frameline43)

It seems obvious to me that the current political reality stems directly from the passing of the World War II generation. It’s more difficult to con and lie about the past, you see, to people who lived through the past. To put it another way, the present moment offers a tough lesson about the importance of knowing history. One of the great merits of independent documentary makers (that we don’t fully appreciate) is their intrepidness in researching, reviving and preserving our collective history—which the powers that be would prefer remain buried and forgotten.

Among the many highlights of the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Festival, a.k.a. Frameline43, which runs June 20–30, are revelatory new works by a choice handful of Bay Area filmmakers. Bret Parker and Petey Barma’s Through the Windows (world premiere, June 24) takes us inside Twin Peaks, the high-windowed bar at the high-visibility corner of Market and Castro. The doc reminds us that it was no small thing for an establishment with a gay clientele to assert its presence so unabashedly in the early 1970s.

Still from 'Through the Window.'
Still from 'Through the Window.' (Courtesy of Frameline43)

Even more remarkable, though, is the guts it took for each person to walk into Twin Peaks for the first time. Because you could readily be seen from the street or sidewalk, you were effectively making a personal declaration that you were out of the closet. No small thing then, or now.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, whose superlative docs (including The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) were instrumental in the evolution of gay rights and queer acceptance, take today’s temperature in their latest, State of Pride (June 28), made for (and now streaming on) YouTube. The duo accompanies social media activist Raymond Braun on expeditions to Salt Lake City and Tuscaloosa to explore the meaning and value of queer pride celebrations in less-enlightened places, and also turns the camera on San Francisco to probe the significance of pride in our long-established queer community.

Still from 'Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.'
Still from 'Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.' (Courtesy of Frameline43)

Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen’s perfectly titled Scream Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (June 29) delves into the painful personal saga of actor Mark Patton, who thought he was on the highway to success when he was cast as the lead in the 1985 sequel to Wes Craven’s horror hit. Gay and closeted, Patton’s experience on the set and afterward, when the film was reviled and dismissed by fans of the original, was the stuff of nightmares. The reputation of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge has improved somewhat over the years, and Patton looks back at the past he lived through.


David Charles Rodrigues’ equally well-titled Gay Chorus Deep South (closing night, June 30) follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on its 2017 tour of the southern U.S. with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. Cheers, tears and years of family memories and harsh history, along with irresistible performances, propel the film forward out of the darkness. But wasn’t it Mississippi’s favorite son, William Faulkner, who said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”