If the ubiquitous rainbow flags didn't tip you off, it's officially the month of the gays. And with that comes Frameline, San Francisco's 35th annual international LGBT film festival. For ten whole days, gay people become more than just sassy sidekicks or crude caricatures and take center stage as human beings with their own stories to tell.
Film festivals can be daunting with their countless offerings so I've compiled a festival guide to make it easier to find what you're looking for.
MUST SEE: You would be foolish to miss Weekend, Andrew Haigh's new film that got heaps of praise at SXSW this year. The premise is pretty basic: two guys meet in a club and have what they believe to be a one-night stand, but their chance encounter blossoms into something else entirely that neither expected. In the vein of Before Sunrise, Weekend is a raw, honest snapshot of two ships passing in the night. Haigh chose to shoot the story in order and stick to one take with no editing and no sets. This strategy coupled with fantastic performances by Chris New and Tom Cullen make for an authentic glimpse into the everday aspects of being gay and finding one's place in the world. Weekend is, hands down, my favorite film from this year's lineup. Go see it! Friday, June 17, 4:15p at the Castro
LOL-WORTHY: Margaret Cho, the recipient of this year's Frameline Award, needs no introduction. A San Francisco native and outspoken advocate for the LGBT community, Cho returns to form with her latest, Cho Dependent, which tackles her brush with the Palins on Dancing with the Stars, some Bonnaroo port-a-potty humor, and performances of original songs from her album. And of course there are plenty of impressions of her hilarious mother, who, upon hearing that Margaret wanted to be a comedian, replied "maybe it's just better that you die." After a few lackluster offerings, Cho Dependent serves as a reminder of why you fell in love with Margaret in the first place. Highly recommended! Sunday, June 19, 6:30p at the Castro
TRANS DOC: You've probably already heard a lot about Becoming Chaz, the documentary that follows Chaz Bono's transition from Sonny and Cher's daughter to the man he always knew he was. And with good reason: Chaz gives the cameras full access to capture his gender reassignment process, from the elation that comes after his first surgery to the toll that testosterone takes on his relationship. Becoming Chaz is unapologetically honest and allows the viewer to get a true sense of the struggle trans people face and the bravery required of them. And yes, Cher does pop up every now and then, but the gay icon's reaction to Chaz's transition might surprise you. Thursday, June 23, 7p at the Castro
BALLROOM ELEGANZA: There are some movies that lodge themselves in your innards forever and Paris is Burning is one of those films for me. A backstage pass to the NYC ballroom scene of the late '80s, Jennie Livingston's documentary preserves that era and subculture for all the gays that weren't lucky enough to witness it firsthand. I could gush on and on, but instead I'll tell you about a brand new movie called Leave It on the Floor. Helmed as a mix of Paris Is Burning, Rent, and Dreamgirls, this musical follows Brad as he is kicked out of his house and falls into the ballroom scene. Frank Gaston Jr., the man responsible for the infectious "Single Ladies" dance routine, choreographs the film. And the musical numbers are pretty memorable too: one takes place in a church with the gay side battling verses with their homophobic relatives across the aisle, another titled "Justin's Gonna Call" is all about Justin Timberlake. Yes, I'm serious. Paris is Burning screens on Thursday, June 23, 1:15p at the Castro. Leave It On the Floor screens on Friday, June 24, 9:30a at the Castro.
BRUCE LABRUCE: If you have a thing for Bruce LaBruce, you're in luck! This year's festival offers two servings: The Advocate for Fagdom, a documentary about LaBruce's career, and his latest film L.A. Zombie starring Francois Sagat, the French porn star with hair tattooed on his head. The former explores LaBruce's origins, early work, and influence on queer cinema, with people like John Waters offering their perspectives. The latter follows a schizophrenic homeless man who walks around L.A. attempting to resurrect corpses through gay sex. It's essentially an extension of LaBruce's last film Otto; or Up with Dead People, so, if you liked that, you'll probably like this too. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from Santino Rice (Project Runway alum and RuPaul's Drag Race judge). The Advocate for Fagdom screens on Wednesday, June 22, 7p at the Roxie. L.A. Zombie screens on Thursday, June 23, 9:30p at the Victoria.
ART DOC: If you've never heard of the visual art duo Elmgreen and Dragset, How Are You? is a perfect introduction. Jannik Splindhoel's documentary uses archival footage of the artists from 1995 when they were dating and living in Copenhagen to color in their artistic beginnings and then fast forwards to the present day as they work on a large scale project for the Venice Biennale. Both men not only offer great insight into their work and art in general, but do so with humor and charm. As if this isn't enough to make a great doc, the cinematography is stylish and beyond beautiful, the perfect package for such an inspiring film. Highly recommended! Sunday, June 19, 6:30p at the Roxie
CAMPY ADOLESCENCE: Middle school is universally terrible for anyone who's a little different, so you can imagine the tribulations of Spork, a girl-identified intersexed 13 year old who lives in a trailer with her brother Spit and her taxidermied dog. Betsey Byotch and the Byotches, a troupe of teased mean girls with an '80s fetish, bully Spork to the brink of madness. But just when Spork thinks her life will never get better, her sassy trailer neighbor Tootsie Roll comes to the rescue and introduces her to the wonders of breaking it down on the dancefloor. Campy fun with a killer soundtrack. Sunday, June 19, 1p at the Castro
TRANS DRAMA IN THE BRONX: This year's opening night movie is a doozy. Gun Hill Road tells the story of a macho Latino ex con, who returns home after three years in the clink to find his wife estranged and his son, Michael, transitioning and spending more and more time as Vanessa. Needless to say, he doesn't handle any of this very well and must come to terms with his ideas of masculinity and overcome his homophobia to keep his family together. Harmony Santana, a trans woman in real life, is truly impressive, especially considering this is her first movie role, and adds a layer of authenticity to the narrative. Thursday, June 16, 7p at the Castro
Some other good-looking titles that I didn't have time to watch are:<br /
Christopher and His Kind, a biopic about Christopher Isherwood starring eye-candy Matt Smith a.k.a. the U.K.'s latest Dr. Who.
Sunday June 26, 7:30p at the Castro
Mangus!, a campy and trashy humor flick about a boy whose wheelchair hinders him from playing Jesus in "Jesus Christ Spectacular," starring Jennifer Coolidge and Heather Matarazzo.
Saturday June 25, 8:30p at the Castro
Hit So Hard, a behind the scenes documentary about Patty Schemel's time drumming for Courtney Love's band, Hole.
Sunday June 19, 3:30p at the Castro.
Old Cats, the latest black humor film from the men who produced The Maid about what happens when an elderly couple's coked-up lesbian daughter comes back home.
Monday June 20, 11a at the Castro and Tuesday, June 21, 7p at the Elmwood
Frameline 35, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival opens Thursday, June 16 and runs through Sunday, June 26, 2011 at various Bay Area locations. For tickets and information, visit frameline.org.