The Frameline 37 LGBT and Q for queer festival opens on June 20 in San Francisco with Concussion (see below), a gloomy, slick and smooth film on sex and the long term lesbian relationship. It was screened at Berlin this year and won theTeddy Award, and was also nominated for Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize. This is an example of a film that could have, should have debuted at Frameline, if it was a festival that wanted to be a competitive in the world festival arena. The feature debut by Stacie Passon is about a woman in a same sex relationship that suffers a concussion and buys a condo where she begins a new life away from the routine of monogamy and a safe predictable job.
During the ten-day run of the festival through June 30, there will be a cascade of films. Here’s a head’s up on some of the venues. Three documentaries are worthy of special mention:
1. “The Worlds of Bernice Bing”. Bernice Bing (1936-1998) was a brilliant San Francisco artist who was at the forefront of the beat era art movement in North Beach in the late 1950’s and enjoyed a successful and productive art career from the 1960’s to 1990s. Born in Chinatown. The legacy of Bernice Bing has received a vital injection through the efforts of Madeleine Lim, the Asian American Women Artists Association and her friends and former lovers who have brought to life this gifted San Francisco Artist, and which won the Audience Award at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival June 16.
“The Worlds of Bernice Bing” will be screened at the Frameline Film Festival as part of the DIVE IN DEEP—QWOCMAP SHORTS program on June 23 at the Victoria Theatre.
2. “Future My Love” (Sweden, 2012), directed by Maja Borg is an extraordinary pearl of a film. The documentary is about the Venus project in Venus Florida run by the now 95 year social engineer old Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows. What is it?
“The Venus Project offers a comprehensive plan for social reclamation in which human beings, technology and nature will be able to coexist in a long term, sustainable state of dynamic equilibrium.”
Borg takes this precept and applies it to her own personal relationship with a woman in the Middle East who she eventually marries…and divorces. This footage is in black and white. The documentary is an extraordinary assembly of pieces that exemplify the need for a sustainable economy. The atomic bomb is the ultimate failure and warning presented visually several times. The future is irretrievably pessimistic, according to the documentary, though there is the possibility for a world yet to come. Borg’s voiceover reveals, “most of us are unwilling to sacrifice the world we have no matter how artificial and shallow it seems”. By the time the film ends, this seems more and more obvious, causing some anxiety.
According to Jacque, the depression ended with WWII, not because poverty was solved. The film shows how war has been a way to get out of economic crisis “Now we have three wars and we don’t have much more to blow up or pollute”, continues the voiceover. According to Jacque, there has to be an economic collapse and the realization that we need science to create a sustainable economy.
Borg makes a parallel with the chaotic and war driven society and the personal relationship based on jealousy and anger. She wonders if she is a ”redundant female artifact”? Often love is destructive and Borg asks, “If we can do so much damage imagine how much good we can do”. She also postulates, ” the freer I become with my lovers, the more power I have”. Everything she says about love, she also says about our chaotic world.
“Future My Love” is an intelligent film and screens June 26 at 11.30 at the Castro Theatre.
3. “THE OUT LIST” (HBO) is made by an all male team and directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders who lives with his wife. It is produced by HBO. At the helm are producer Lisa Heller HBO, and executive producer Sheila Nevins. The documentary is scripted with interviewees seated in front of plain backgrounds created by design consultant Aaron Eiseman. The doc is very high profile with slick cuts, and sometimes cued and overly-animated speakers. “THE OUT LIST” is designed for an HBO mainstream audience over 18. The question is why, since there is no profanity and no sex scenes. Perhaps because the message is overwhelmingly positive.
There are 16 interviews of seven lesbians, one MTF (male to female) and seven gay men of varied ethnicities: actor Neil Patrick Harris, MTF Janet Mock, writer Dustin Lance Black screenwriter, sheriff Lupe Valdez, sportsman Wade Davis, politician R Clarke Cooper, drag queen, Lady Bunny and playwright Larry Kramer. The comedian Wanda Syke ‘ says “my life says it’ about gay rights, and is followed by politician Christine Quinn, musician Jake Shears, journalist Wazina Zondon, and comedian, Ellen DeGeneres – low key for a change. Suze Orman, is preachy like her infomercials, followed by performer Twiggy Pucan Garçon who calls himself a “butch Queen”. Topping off the OUT LIST is actress Cynthia Nixon.
The doc screens June 25, 4:30 PM Castro Theatre
Here are some excerpts:
DeGeneres confesses she “doesn’t want to just speak to the Kardashians” and tells how the entertainment industry helps you stay closeted. So even if you are “out”, you are not “out to the world”, she proclaims. So, one can surmise that when Jody Foster failed to come out in the way the LGBT world expected, she received some unnecessary flack.
Like DeGeneres, Nixon’s message is simple and powerful. She calls herself gay as a political fighter even if she is bisexual. She says the gay marriage act is important for without it, “we are sending the message that the government is not going to protect us”. She spoke of the evolution of “we the people”, formerly being white male property owners, later the black man, women, and now, gay people – the “final frontier”. “We’re all us”, concludes Nixon. She also makes the point that she is religious and it is wrong for the left to put it only on white right conservatives.
Other Frameline preview snippets:
4.” CONCUSSION”, is the opening night film, June 20, a gloomy story about two lesbians in a sexless long term relationship. The option for one of them is to become an artistic and literary hooker for young college girls with daddy’s credit card. Skillfully made debut film directed by Stacie Passon, and produced by Rose Troche (“LWord”, “Go Fish”).
5. “EASY ABBY: EVERY DAY MAKING LOVE MORE DIFFICULT (SEASON ONE)” This is another kind of LWord spinoff of conventional sexual encounters and tales about a 30 + lesbian living in Chicago.
6. The ensemble film “VALENCIA” is worth seeing for the artistic form, but will make some take note of the role model lesbian of today. Each of the 18 stories by the directors has a “Michelle”of all genders with horn rimmed classes. One segment using Angelina Jolie with voice over as “Michelle” features the actress in scenes cut from her movies sporting superimposed horned rims. Check this out.
7. “CHUPPAN CHUPA” is a Danish documentary directed by Saad Khan. about Pakistani drag queens, gay men and transvestites. Their obvious silliness disguises a hard life as prostitutes, being raped by relatives. The solution is just laughing it off. One guy blows smoke at the camera to show his indifference to the film.
8. “I AM GAY AND MUSLIM” is a high quality Dutch documentary with an unskilled presentation of some of the characters, all gay men, even under the condition of secrecy. Interviewer stands in front of subject often just looking at them. Director Chris Belloni will be at Frameline.
9. “ROMEO ROMEO” – Jessica and Lexie, a lesbian couple wants a baby, and it’s a dream not without complications.
Two exceptional documentaries about exceptional gay men are recommended:
10. “PAUL BOWLES: THE CAGE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN” is about the writer Paul Bowles and also his lover Janet Bowles, directed by Daniel Young (Switzerland). This film brings up the complications of the writers while living in Tangiers – the jealousy, cloak and dagger intrigues, poisoning, cheating and futility. A bitter Paul Bowles is shown in his final days. Monday, June 24, 11:00 AM, Castro Theatre.
11. “GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA” is a rich documentary about the late political thinker , novelist, and scriptwriter Gore Vidal and his extraordinary life and achievements. Directed by Nicholas Wrathall. Vidal was friends with politicians and movie actors and lived part of the year in Italy. He also give his opinions about Paul Bowles in the Young documentary.
12.”SEXUAL TENSION: VIOLETAS” is a set of intriguing and realistic tales about young lesbian desire in Argentina, directed by Marco Berger and Marcelo Monaco – not to be confused with “Sexual Tension: Volatile” about gay men.
13. “THE ABOMINABLE CRIME” is an excellent doc directed by Micah Fink on lesbians in Jamaica beginning with a crime where a lesbian is shot and killed. Simone, the surviving partner, goes to Amsterdam where the government gives her asylum. The asylum process is documented while the woman waits to have her daughter later join her. A naive Dutch teacher is shown with Simone saying she didn’t realize that it’s not ok to be gay in Jamaica where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by prison.
14. “BORN THIS WAY”. Of the world class documentaries on the conditions of gay (men), this one looks at gay men and lesbians in Cameroon. Directors Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann will be at Frameline.
15. “THE NEW BLACK” Excellent, important and empowering film directed by Yoruba Richen about how the passage of proposition 8 was over the board unfairly put on diverse black religious groups. The efforts of black LGBT activists in Maryland to pass gay marriage is chronicled.