Saturday, May 24, 2008

2008 FRAMELINE32—Michael Hawley's Anticipatory Remarks

You've got to love it when festival programmers anticipate your every desire. That's certainly how I felt when Frameline Artistic Director Michael Lumpkin and Director of Programming Jennifer Morris announced the line-up for this year's event at a press conference earlier this week. There were seven films I'd hoped to find on the roster and I'll be darned if Frameline hasn't bagged all seven of them for me:

* Before I Forget—French actor/director Jacques Nolot's acclaimed follow-up to 2002's Porn Theater promises another arch contemplation on being geriatric and gay.

* Jihad for Love—A festival Showcase screening of Parvez Sharma's documentary look at the lives and struggles of gay and lesbian Muslims.

* The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela—Winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature at this year's Berlin Film Festival, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson's docudrama celebrates the fanciful international exploits of a Filipina tranny.

* Be Like Others—Tanaz Eshagian's documentary about transsexuals in Iran, where they'll stone you to death for being gay, but getting it cut off is AOK. Winner of a Berlin Teddy jury award.

* Japan Japan—Lior Shamriz' quasi-experimental featurette about the mundane and confused existence of a young queer living in Tel Aviv.

* La León—Winner of the top prize at the recent Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Santiago Otheguy's atmospheric B&W widescreen film contemplates one man's isolation and longing on a remote Argentine island.

* Otto; or Up with Dead People—Longtime Frameline habitué Bruce LaBruce sends up the zombie genre with his customary sex-and-anarchy aplomb.

Of course, those seven selections represent just the glowing tip of the festival's 88-feature film iceberg. For starters, this year's Centerpiece film is XXY, which was Argentina's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars. This bold portrait of a 15-year-old intersex teen stars renowned Argentine actor Ricardo Darin. I caught it at the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier this year, and can definitely give it a recommendation.

In addition to A Jihad for Love, three other documentaries are getting the Showcase treatment at Frameline32. I'm most excited about Derek, Issac Julien and Tilda Swinton's collaborative tribute to the genius of queer British filmmaker Derek Jarman. (The film screens one time only at 4:30 p.m. on Pride Sunday, so I'm hoping no one too fabulous is headlining the main stage down at Civic Center). Frameline mainstays Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) will also be presenting their new HBO short, When I Knew. The film compiles on-camera confessions of the "a-ha" moment each LGBT youth experiences—the one that triggers an awareness of being "different" from one's peers. Frameline attendees will be encouraged to record their own stories at the When I Knew Video Booth located behind the Castro Theater, and the results will be screened as a companion piece to When I Knew. Finally, the festival will screen a restored print of the groundbreaking 1977 documentary Word is Out.

There are a whopping 37 programs in the festival's Documentary section this year, and four of them immediately caught my attention. Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band tells the story of everyone's favorite queer punk group, who gained notoriety and fame touring with Dookie-era Green Day in 1994. After the screening on Thursday, June 26, original band members will reunite for a gig at the Eagle Tavern on 12th Street. Seventies porn-star Jack Wrangler is the subject of Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, which focuses on his adult film career, as well as his 2nd and 3rd acts as legit theater director and husband to Big Band singer Margaret Whiting. The Kinsey Sicks: Almost Infamous follows the always hilarious Bay Area drag-a-pella political comedy troupe as they prepare for an extended engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton. Oscar-winning director Ruby Yang will be represented by two short films: A Double Life looks at the conflicted lives of three young gay men living in Beijing, and The Blood of Yingzhou District (for which Yang won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short) examines the effect of AIDS on a rural Chinese village.

The World Cinema section is always my favorite at Frameline, from whence hail five of the seven films on my wish list. Of the remaining 16 films in this category, I'm most anticipating the world premiere of Maher Sabry's All My Life. Lauded in the catalog capsule as "the most daring and sexually explicit portrait of homosexual life in Egypt yet put on screen," this 150-minute epic is about one young man's efforts to cope with life in Cairo after his boyfriend gets married and his best (girl)friend moves to San Francisco. Other films of note in this section are German-Turkish director Fatih Akin's excellent The Edge of Heaven (for those who missed it at Berlin & Beyond or during its Bay Area theatrical run) and Saturn in Opposition, the latest from Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek (Steam, Facing Windows, His Secret Life). Those who enjoyed last year's Taiwanese Spider Lilies will certainly want to see director Zero Chou's latest film, Drifting Flowers. I'm also intrigued by Singaporean directors Kan Lume and Loo Zihan's Solos, a dialogue-free accounting of a sexual relationship between a student and teacher. Unspoken Passion is this year's Filipino rent boy melodrama.

All this is just a fraction of what's on offer at Frameline32, so you'll need to check out the festival catalog or website for the complete picture. For example, there are 12 titles in the U.S. Features section, all of which are unknown entities to me (although based on its title, I'm inclined to check into The Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror). I'm sure there are many little treasures to be found in any one of the festival's 15 programs of shorts ("Worldly Affairs" contains Bramadero, by acclaimed Mexican director Julián Hernández of Broken Sky and A Thousand Clouds of Peace fame.) And I sheepishly admit that I'm almost certainly giving short shrift to the numerous lesbian programs to be found in each section.

Lastly, on a bit of a sad note, it's been announced that Michael Lumpkin will be leaving Frameline after 28 years of service. Lumpkin joined Frameline as a volunteer in 1979, was producing the festival four years later, and is certainly a prime reasons why it's become the oldest, biggest and best LGBT film festival in the world. The festival will be honoring Lumpkin with this year's Frameline Award, and the man himself has curated a retrospective of seven Frameline favorites from years past, which will be screened throughout the festival. They are Gus Van Sant's Mala Noche, Pedro Almodóvar's Law of Desire, Andy and Larry Wachowski's Bound, John Greyson's Lilies, Thomas Bezucha's Big Eden, Joseph Ramaka's Karmen Geï and Pieter Kramer's Yes Nurse! No Nurse!


Anonymous said...

Michael H,

Thanks for the preview! If I may, I'd like to make a shout for OUT: SMASHING HOMOPHOBIA PROJECT. When I was at the Women's International Film Festival in Seoul, I was unable to see this doc because both showings sold out fast. My friend Annie Koh did get to see it and said the experience was amazing -

I'm sure some of that has to do with seeing it in Seoul, but I'm as deliriously happy they are bringing this film as you are the 7 you highlighted.

Plus, my girlfriend is a big fan of the manga LOVE MY LIFE is based on and was ecstatic to see that film on the list.

Looks like FrameLine made a LOT of people happy this year!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Adam! I appreciate the recommendations. Both of those films are available on screener, and OUT is screening at a time I can see it during the festival.