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 36th Annual International LGBT Film Festival. For eleven 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.
I WANT YOUR LOVE
Take Andrew Haigh's Weekend (my absolute favorite movie from last year's Frameline Festival) and mix it with a flick from behind the red curtain at the local video store and you get Travis Mathews' I Want Your Love, which has been extended to feature length from the much-lauded 2010 short film of the same name. The movie follows Jesse, a San Francisco performance artist with a beard and sexy tattoos (imagine that!), as he prepares to leave gay paradise for the bleak, but affordable plains of Ohio. The combination of Mathews' intimate shots and the very real performances by the actors makes for an honest portrayal of love, lust, and all the in-between that comes with being a contemporary gay male. There's a lot of in-your-face sexuality going on so don't bring the kiddies, unless you want to have an unconventional birds and bees lesson. Also seen in all her naked glory is the old curvy babe we would never dare call Frisco. Sunday June 17, 9:30pm at the Castro
BYE BYE BLONDIE
Beatrice Dalle of Betty Blue and Emmanuelle Beart of Manon of the Spring come together in Bye Bye Blondie to play two former lovers who haven't seen each other since they fell in love in a loony bin for teens. As is often the case with old flames, the heat is still there and the film documents take two of their red hot romance with flashbacks to their '80s punk rock days. The Runaways meets Girl, Interrupted, need I say more? Saturday, June 16, 9:30pm at the Castro and Wednesday June 20, 7pm at the Elmwood
Are you one of those people who sees children jump-roping or clumsily eating ice cream or learning how to ride a bike for the first time and thinks: "Ugh, definitely not for me." So was I! But then I saw Boy Cheerleaders, a documentary that follows young boys from working class families in South Leeds, as they become the first male cheerleading squad to compete in the U.K. Cheerleading Championships. Moments that made me question my no-kids-no-way policy are the scene where the boys take their first trip on the London Underground and one of them is so overwhelmed that he cries, or the scene where Harvey, the undisputed scene stealer of the film, talks about how he wants to be the next Billy Elliot and figures that he's "halfway there," or this scene where the boys are being taught how to serve up winning facial expressions (a wink, a pout, a tough manly look) for their routine. If none of the above moves you, I'm sorry to say it, but you're kind of a monster. Saturday, June 23, 11:30am at the Roxie
Iranian female director Negar Azarbayjani's first silver screen outing, Facing Mirrors, is also the country's first film with a transgender lead. Adineh/Eddie is waiting for a passport in order to get female-to-male reassignment surgery in Germany. Only problem is her father is actively trying to marry her off to her male cousin (parents just don't understand). While hiding out, Eddie's life collides with a conservative young cab driver who is struggling to stay afloat while her husband is in prison. An unlikely friendship that rivals this crew ensues. Monday June 18, 6:30pm at the Castro and Tuesday June 19, 9:30pm at the Elmwood
Living upstairs from a babe usually throws a wrench into any vow of celibacy. Charlie, the neurotic, yet lovable protagonist of Petunia, finds this out the hard way when he meets his sister-in-law's cousin, played by Michael Urie (the gay from Ugly Betty). And that's not the only familiar face you'll find in this movie. Thora Birch, known for her award-winning (not really) turn in Hocus Pocus, plays a heartless, boozing pregnant woman with two possible baby daddies, her husband and his brother. Paging Jerry Springer! Joking aside, Petunia is a fun peek into the life of an off-beat New York family mired in a downward spiral of dysfunction. Sunday, June 17, 1:30pm at the Castro
HOLLYWOOD TO DOLLYWOOD
Most people have that one celebrity idol that warrants posters on the walls or a referential tattoo or even a pilgrimage. I recently thought it would be a good idea to wear one of my Winona Ryder shirts and have a picnic on the lawn outside of her house, but then I realized that my friends probably wouldn't be able to scrounge up enough bail money so I ended up doing something non-stalker-y instead. The same can't be said for Gary and Larry, twins who are obsessed with Dolly Parton and embark on a journey from Hollywood to Dollywood, in an RV named Jolene, to hand her a screenplay they wrote for her over several years. An almost-twister in Texas and devastating flooding in Tennessee can't keep these boys from the bigger-than-life country girl of their dreams. One of their friends sums things up pretty well, when, as he waves them off on their journey, he turns to the camera to say, "I don't know what the sodomy laws are like in Tennessee, but bless their hearts." Thursday June 21, 7:00pm at the Elmwood and Saturday, June 23, 7:00pm at the Victoria
LET MY PEOPLE GO!
Ruben, the main character in Let My People Go!, has a steady job as a mailman and lives in an adorable cottage in a quiet wooded area of Finland with his hot Aryan boyfriend. What could go wrong? Pretty much everything. After receiving a suspicious bag full of euros, his life quickly crumbles. His boyfriend breaks up with him and throws all of Ruben's clothes out of the closet, to which Ruben says, "That's silly. I'll have to refold it all!" It isn't too long before Ruben finds himself in Paris, plunked right into the high drama of his Jewish family. On top of a broken heart and anxiety over the cash, he has to deal with learning about his father's longtime mistress; getting involved in a tussle over his sister's honor; and evading the advances of an elderly family friend. Oh, and I should probably mention that his mom is played by Carmen Maura, one of Almodovar's muses. If she's good enough for Pedro, she's good enough for you. Saturday, June 23, 8:30pm at the Castro
ME @ THE ZOO
Remember when Britney lost her damn mind and shaved her head and attacked that car with the umbrella and then gave a sluggish live performance sponsored (allegedly) by prescription pills? Then, you probably remember Chris Crocker, who became world famous for shouting "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE" while sobbing on YouTube. That moment morphed this gender variant teen's reality from being home schooled in a small town in Tennessee to being offered reality shows and trips to LA. This documentary, named after the first video ever uploaded to YouTube, follows Crocker's rise to web stardom and quick descent back to his humble beginnings. Sassy antics make up the majority of the movie, but what stands out more is the relationship Crocker has with his mother, who returns from a tour of duty in Iraq and finds herself homeless and addicted to drugs. He might be annoying at times, but, after seeing his home life, I gotta say: Leave Chris Crocker alone! Saturday, June 23, 1:00pm at the Castro
There's a negative stereotype about kids who are home schooled: Super Christian, super hippie, or just super weird. Long hair, denim jumpers, and clogs. Miserable. Bethany Pruitt isn't any of those things, except the last one. Trapped under the thumb of her oppressive mother, Bethany Pruitt craves escape, and only finds it through fashion magazines and admiring the boy who lives across the street. After her mother's overbearing antics become too much to handle, Bethany hightails it to her gay dad's place, where she befriends his much younger, fun-loving boyfriend, played by...wait for it...no, you're not ready...ok, I'll tell you...HALEY JOEL OSMENT! You know, the "I see dead people" kid from The Sixth Sense. A lot has changed since he uttered that line. Now we find him in dangerously short shorts, shirtless, and lip ringed. Bethany's journey to independence is the backbone of the movie, but it's Osment's performance that is the main draw. Friday, June 22, 7:00pm at the Castro
Frameline 36, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival opens Thursday, June 14 and runs through Sunday, June 24, 2012 at various Bay Area locations. For tickets and information, visit frameline.org.