Now Playing! Frameline Hits the High Notes

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Still from Bobbi Jo Hart's 'Fanny: The Right to Rock,' 2021. (Courtesy Frameline)

As we gradually return to pre-pandemic patterns and routines—rush hour traffic! public drinking! berating minimum-wage workers!—the final step, for many of us, will be sitting in a movie theater. Whether you are in a frame of mind to do it physically or vicariously, Frameline45 (a.k.a. San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival) marks a watershed: In its range of venues, but especially in its extraordinary breadth of programming, Frameline45 (June 10–27) heralds a return to true community-based festival-going.

I certainly don’t mean to slight SF DocFest (continuing through June 20), with its expansive slate to go with its Roxie playdates (through June 17). But identity-based festivals like Frameline fulfill their mission—to recognize the invisible, the mocked, the persecuted and the “other”—with public showings where people come out and see each other, along with whoever’s on the screen. And if you’re including every corner of that extended and sometimes niche-y community, you have to show a wide range of films.

Still from Jonathan Butterell's 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie,' 2021. (Courtesy Frameline)

To be sure, sometimes it’s mainstream fare, like the big-screen adaptations of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit stage musical In the Heights and the British musical triumph Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (June 12 and 13, respectively at Oracle Park, the home of the Giants).

Sometimes the hook is celebrity talent, like the doc Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (with Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto voicing the writers) and the equally sharp-tongued dramedy Swan Song, starring Udo Kier as an Ohio hairdresser summoned from retirement for one last job. Cloris Leachman plays a stalwart elder with a drag-queen grandson in the Canadian drama Jump, Darling (June 26 at the, yes, Castro). The dance docs Ailey and Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters likewise speak (in gestures) for themselves.

Then there are the people who should be household names. Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of José Sarria profiles the lifelong entertainer, activist and first openly gay candidate for public office in the U.S. (he ran for S.F. supervisor 60 years ago). Academy Award-winning S.F. documentary maker Debra Chasnoff was loved and admired by many, but her journey through terminal cancer, which she documented in Prognosis: Notes on Living (completed after her death by her trusted collaborators and premiering online June 19), places her among the immortals.

A photograph of José Sarria in Joseph R. Castel's 'Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of José Sarria,' 2020. (Courtesy Frameline)

The ’70s all-woman rock band Fanny deserves an exhibit in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Fanny: The Right to Rock (June 10 at the West Wind Solano Drive-in and then online) will help that righteous cause. Speaking of knocking down walls through popular art, East Bay filmmaker Vivian Kleiman’s No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (June 27 at the Castro) salutes the late Howard Cruse, Alison Bechdel and other graphic novelists who animated (and satirized) gay and lesbian life with pen and ink.

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Monika Treut’s late-’90s portrait of gender-fluid San Franciscans, Gendernauts, was a revelation (in Europe, certainly, if not here). Her pre-pandemic sequel, Genderation, brings us up to speed 20 years down the road with Susan Stryker, Annie Sprinkle and other rebels and disruptors. Is the past prologue? Jose Enrique Tiglao’s Filipino intersex adolescent drama Metamorphosis, among other Frameline45 entries, continues the work of expanding the mainstream.

Frameline45 takes place in person at various Bay Area venues June 10–27 and streams nationally June 17–27. Details here.