Spinning Platters Guide to the Frameline35 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival

by Jason LeRoy on June 14, 2011

The 35th annual Frameline LGBT Film Festival kicks off later this week, running from June 16-26 with screenings at the Castro, Roxie, and Victoria theaters. Frameline has once again programmed a globally diverse lineup of sex comedies, coming-of-age dramas, compelling documentaries, and something called Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Full info available at the official website. Look after the jump for Spinning Platters’ top 10 picks for the festival (all descriptions courtesy of Frameline).

Becoming Chaz

USA, 2011, 88 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biography / HistoryComing OutFemale-to-MaleHealth / Medicine
Programs: DocumentariesShowcasesTransgender Film Focus

DIRECTORS: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

Expected Guests: directors Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato and subjects Chaz Bono & Jennifer Elia

Growing up with famous parents, constantly in the public eye would be hard for anyone. Now imagine that all those images people have seen of you are lies about how you actually felt. Chaz Bono grew up as Sonny and Cher’s adorable golden-haired daughter and felt trapped in a female shell. Becoming Chaz is a bracingly intimate portrait of a person in transition and the relationships that must evolve with him.

As Chaz undertakes gender reassignment, he invites us along on his journey of transformation. Along with his girlfriend, Jenny, he travels from Los Angeles to San Francisco for surgery. It’s clear that the transition is more than physical, especially for those around him. He decides to go public with his story, to put a face on a misunderstood issue. Family and friends offer frank insight in interviews, about Chaz’s past as Chastity and the present. Dealing with the press, Chaz decided to go on the offensive instead of letting reporters dig and assume. Cher tells it like it is, including her reticence about Chaz’s plan to come out loud and proud.

Intimate and nakedly honest about the nitty gritty of transition in general and Chaz’s personal experience, the film reveals the courage it takes for Chaz to embrace his true self.

 

Cho Dependent

USA, 2011, 83 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: AsianComedyDocumentaryMusic / Music VideoTheater / Performance Art
Program: U.S. Features

DIRECTOR: Lorene Machado

Expected Guests: director Lorene Machado

Before queers started knocking each other over to line up for Kathy Griffin, San Francisco native Margaret Cho, the original ass-master, was the queen of cock-talk and hardcore queer rights activism. And she still is. The woman who embraces all the letters of the queer alphabet is back on the big screen, ready to attack the few taboos remaining after previous concert films I’m the One That I Want (2000), Notorious C.H.O. (2002), andRevolution (2004).

Cho Dependent, bearing the same name as Cho’s 2010 Grammy-award nominated comedy album, covers it all—from her stint on Dancing With the Stars, to Lady Gaga to the culture shock of moving to the deep south for Drop Dead Diva. In typical Cho fashion, the performance toggles between outrageous bedroom antics to self-deprecating tales of an outsider to impressions of her mother’s latest antics (yay!).

Come get a “ticket for gaywalking” with the only comedienne who can offend every demographic in our fair city, while somehow making us all laugh out loud. Help us celebrate our 2011 Frameline award winner, then spread the word about Lady Caca.

 

Christopher and His Kind

USA, 2010, 90 Minute Running Time

Genre/Subjects: Arts & LiteratureBiography / HistoryDiscriminationDramaGayJewish
Programs: Closing NightWorld Cinema

DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Sax

Expected Guests: director Geoffrey Sax and artist Don Bachardy

Christopher and His Kind presents a stunning piece of LGBT history with this BBC-produced dramatization of novelist Christopher Isherwood’s 1976 memoir. Recounting the English-American writer’s years in 1930s Germany, this is the true story of Isherwood’s celebratedThe Berlin Stories, which served as the basis for the Broadway musical and film Cabaret.

In the 1930s, Isherwood moved to hedonistic Berlin “because of the boys”. But he also moved there to pursue his burgeoning writing career and to escape England and the stifling expectations of his snobbish mother (Lindsay Duncan, HBO’s Rome). Handsome Matt Smith (the U.K.’s latest Dr. Who) plays the young Isherwood as the film beautifully captures his relationships with the poet W.H. Auden, flatmate Jean Ross (Isherwood’s real life friend and the basis for his immortal character Sally Bowles) and the Jewish, upper class Wilfrid Landauer (Iddo Goldberg, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl). Against the intoxicating backdrop of Berlin’s gay subculture during the waning bacchanalia of the Weimar Republic, Isherwood falls hopelessly in love with Heinz Neddermayer—yet their relationship faces impossible challenges in the face of the gathering storm of the rise of the Nazi party.

There has been a resurgence of interest in Isherwood and his works with Tom Ford’s A Single Man and the documentary Chris And Don: A Love Story (Frameline32) that chronicled the author’s 35-year relationship with artist Don Bachardy. Christopher and His Kind gives us the story of this beloved author’s early years in his own eloquent words.

 

The Green

USA, 2010, 90 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: DiscriminationDramaGayHomophobiaLesbian
Program: U.S. Features

DIRECTOR: Steven Williford

Sneak Preview

Expected Guests: director Steven Williford

Michael and Daniel have moved from New York City to a bucolic Connecticut town in hopes of living a simpler life. But the muggy spring weather isn’t the only oppressive thing about their new community. Michael is finding his balance as an out teacher at a private high school when his interactions with a student come into question. As he’s told, “There’s been an accusation. And that’s all that matters.”

A misunderstood encounter sets the events in motion, driven by the student’s mother and her sinister boyfriend. Are they after the truth, revenge or money? As Michael’s life unravels, he and Daniel are forced to face the suspicions of coworkers and the latent homophobia in their friends and neighbors (including indie favorite Illeana Douglas). Their lesbian civil rights lawyer, Karen (the striking Julia Ormond), is itching for a fight, and her “all in” attitude might be more than Michael is looking for. The story spins completely out of Michael’s control when his accuser disappears, making it even harder to prove the truth—whatever the truth actually is. And when Karen unearths a damaging secret about Michael that even Daniel doesn’t know, a storm of violent confrontations threatens to bring down Michael, his relationship, and the entire community.

As Michael, Jason Butler Harner walks the thin line between honesty and cagey secrecy. Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock) brings sweetness and authenticity to the role of Daniel. The audience must draw their own conclusions as the green of summer fades to fall.

 

Gun Hill Road

USA, 2011, 88 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Coming OutDiscriminationHomophobiaLatinoMale-to-Female,Parenting / FamilyYouth
Programs: Opening NightTransgender Film FocusU.S. Features

DIRECTOR: Rashaad Ernesto Green

Expected Guests: director Rashaad Ernesto Green and actors Esai Morales, Judy Reyes & Harmony Santana

An official selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Gun Hill Road is a tense and complex family drama about a teen embracing her gender identity and a father who must put aside his notions of manhood and reinvestigate his own ideas of what having a “normal” child means.

There is no doubt that Enrique Michael Rodriguez has many ideas of what his young son—and namesake—will become: strong, proud of his Nuyorican heritage, macho…just like Enrique himself. But when Enrique returns home to the Bronx after three years in prison, he finds that he doesn’t know his son Michael at all. Enrique tries to make up for lost time by focusing even more attention on his son, only to realize that Michael is transitioning and spends a lot of time as Vanessa. And Vanessa is struggling to balance school, her poetry, her family, and a boyfriend who prefers private time to public dates. Meanwhile, Vanessa’s supportive mother, Angela, tries to keep her family together in spite of her own volatile personal life.

Three pitch-perfect leads anchor an incredible cast. The always sexy Esai Morales (CapricaNYPD BlueBad Boys) simmers as Enrique, Judy Reyes (ScrubsOZ) plays Angela with grounded vulnerability, and newcomer Harmony Santana is a true breakout star, shining as Vanessa.

 

Hit So Hard

USA, 2011, 101 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biography / HistoryDocumentaryDrugs / AddictionLesbianMusic / Music Video
Program: Documentaries

DIRECTOR: P. David Ebersole

Expected Guests: director P. David Ebersole and subject Patty Schemel

While playing with Hole in the ‘90s, drummer and out lesbian Patty Schemel shot over 40 hours of footage of the band. Twenty years later, her plan was to simply have the Hi-8 tapes transferred to a more sustainable format, but her partner saw something bigger. The result is director P. David Ebersole’s first feature documentary, Hit So Hard, referencing the 1998 Hole song of the same name.

Although hailing from a small farm town outside of Seattle, Schemel is ever the outsider. Hole fans (and haters) may already familiar with the main plot: the dramatic, drug-filled rise and fall of grunge darlings thrust into the limelight, a story full of darkness, suicides, and overdoses. Schemel’s personal story is gripping, from her time in the early ‘90s Seattle punk scene to the cover of Rolling Stone. From Schemel’s close friendship with Nirvana star Kurt Cobain to her struggles with addition and survival, Ebersole digs below the surface, alternately splicing the gritty ‘90s footage with more recent interviews. A now-sober Schemel, Hole bandmates Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson, and Melissa Auf der Maur, as well as friends like Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt), piece together a complex picture of a chaotic life.

Concert footage, a soundtrack of Hole songs, and rare clips of Kurt, Courtney and baby Frances coalesce into a nostalgic documentary that will make you want to dust off your baby barrettes and flannel shirts.

 

Mangus!

USA, 2010, 88 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: ComedyGayGenderLesbianMusic / Music VideoMusicalParenting / FamilyTheater / Performance ArtYouth
Programs: ShowcasesU.S. Features

DIRECTOR: Ash Christian

Expected Guests: director Ash Christian

West Coast Premiere

Mangus! is a campy dark comedy, a trashy riot from Ash Christian, writer and director ofFat Girls. It’s as if Female Trouble and Napoleon Dynamite had a red-headed lovechild—with a cutting sense of humor and a colostomy bag.

Mangus Spedgwick has had one dream his whole life: to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by being Jesus – in his high school’s annual production of “Jesus Christ Spectacular”. Just when he’s got the part and the world is his oyster, a freak accident threatens to derail all of his dreams. The theater director (a brilliant Leslie Jordan) wants to keep Mangus as the lead, but the scheming Stage Mothers of Texas have other plans, and soon the School Board has decided that it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a wheelchair-bound Jesus. Not one to give up, Mangus rallies and fights for the part, finding himself in a strip club, at a murder scene, in a trailer park, and even in Florida before his journey is over.

Campy, trashy humor and an unbeatable premise combine with a cast of cult comedy icons like Jennifer Coolidge (Best in Show) as Mangus’s mother and Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) as his lesbian sister, along with an unforgettable cameo from John Waters himself.

 

Three

Germany, 2010, 119 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: BisexualComedyDrama
Programs: CenterpieceWorld Cinema
Language: in German with English subtitles

DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer

From the director of iconic indie flick Run, Lola, Run comes Three, Tom Tykwer’s latest exploration of human motivation. If you let it, love can be as easy as one-two-three, as Tykwer proves in this atmospheric piece about bisexuality, love and longing in cosmopolitan Berlin.

One: appealingly disheveled Simon, all scruff and dimples, who’s ready to move on from tragedy.
Two: slyly humorous Hanna, wry and knowing, who wants more than the comfortable companionship she has with Simon.
Three: magnetic blonde Adam, impish and confident, an occasional father who looks for connection. Which he finds with Simon. And Hanna.

But none of the three knows what the other two are doing. Here infidelity is just what the love doctor ordered. Hesitant first approaches turn voracious, and the affairs pulse with sensuality, especially when Simon and Adam smolder on-screen. As each coupling’s relationship grows more satisfying physically and spiritually, the trio’s palpable chemistry drives the story to a dizzying climax. These spheres must collide eventually—right?

Sophie Rois, Devid Streisow, and Tykwer regular Sebastian Schipper give exquisite performances, lending an air of enigmatic charisma to characters sorting out what it means to live life with abandon in one of the great cities of the world. Tykwer fractures the first half of the film with haunting poetry and stark fantasies. He pulls back from these as the characters’ lives slide into focus, which feels like taking a step back from a chaotic mosaic to see a fresh and invigorating story come into view.

 

Weekend

UK, 2011, 96 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: DramaDrugs / AddictionGay
Programs: ShowcasesWorld Cinema

DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh

Expected Guests: director Andrew Haigh

West Coast Premiere

A one-night stand is usually a simple and uncomplicated venture. For Russell and Glen, their hook up at a dance club is anything but.

Russell is the type of gay man who prefers to keep his sexuality under wraps. He’s a loner in search of that special man who will love him, but he can’t break free from needing to fit in with his straight friends. Glen is the polar opposite: he’s completely open to experiencing what gay life has to offer. As an artist, Glen rebuffs the hypocrisy of gays trying to assimilate into established institutions of straight society. While he is continually looking for sexual intimacy, Glen is dead set against any type of commitment. In his words, “I don’t do boyfriend.”

As these two unlikely companions spend the weekend talking, having sex, drinking and taking drugs, they challenge each other’s delicately protected zone of comfort. From bedroom to bar, they can’t ignore the intimate connection that’s pulling each closer to the other. But they know the weekend will eventually come to an end. Will their newfound love reach a similar fate?

Weekend was one of the opening films at SXSW in March and received quite the buzz at the Austin festival, even garnering an audience award for its director Andrew Haigh. It is both an honest and unapologetic love story between two guys and a film about making a passionate commitment to life.

 

Wish Me Away

USA, 2011, 95 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biography / HistoryComing OutDocumentaryHomophobiaLesbian,Music / Music VideoParenting / FamilyReligion / Spirituality
Programs: CenterpieceDocumentaries

DIRECTORS: Bobbie Birleffi, Beverly Kopf

Expected Guests: directors Bobbie Birleffi & Beverly Kopf and subject Chely Wright

“Sometimes living one’s honest life is damn near impossible.” Or so it felt to award-winning country music star Chely Wright for most of her closeted life—first raised in a Christian home in a tiny Bible-Belt town and then as a member of the sexually repressed and homophobic country music industry in Nashville.

Surrounded by a family, community, culture and religion that all believed that being gay is just wrong (and, to many, “of the devil”), Wright prayed regularly for God to rid her of her homosexuality, vowing to give up on love in return. Instead, music became her love, as she scored hits like “Shut Up and Drive” and “Single White Female”. But while her dreams of stardom came true, she remained tormented by her sexuality and paralyzed by the fear of coming out. Would the country music industry tolerate a lesbian in their ranks? Would her fans reject her? She tried dating men (including fellow country star Brad Paisley), poured her energy into philanthropic endeavors, and contemplated suicide before finally acknowledging what she knew she needed to do. In 2010, she began calculated preparations to release an album and a book (Like Me) that would finally reveal her coming-out story and make country music history.

Through sometimes-tearful interviews and conversations, video diary entries, music videos, and several of her songs, this touching portrait follows Wright up to her full-court media press, from Oprah to People magazine, as she discovers the transformational power of living an authentic life.

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