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Forever Frameline: opening week!

by David Lamble

Scene from directors Fiona Dawson & Gabriel Silverman's "TransMilitary." Photo: Frameline
Scene from directors Fiona Dawson & Gabriel Silverman's "TransMilitary." Photo: Frameline  

Forty-two years ago, what would become the mighty San Francisco International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer Film Festival kicked off in a modest apartment in an Inner Mission neighborhood. The 2018 edition of Frameline will unspool from Thurs., June 14, through Sun., June 24, at the Castro, Roxie, and Victoria Theatres in San Francisco, the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, and the Piedmont in Oakland. This year's 136-page guide and festival website provide a comprehensive look at what's available to see, as well as info on tickets, parking and transit links to the four festival venues. Now for my capsule reviews of a dozen programs from the festival's first week, thru Wed., June 20. More next issue.

"TransMilitary" The American military is this country's largest employer of transgender people. But ever since the 2016 presidential election debacle, President Trump's tweets have cast a shadow over the jobs and identities of about 15,000 transgender military workers. "TransMilitary" provides moving tales of a quartet of transgender soldiers who are the current shock troops for the US battle for LGBTQ rights. The Castro screening will be followed by a Gala party at Terra Gallery. (Castro, Opening Night, 6/14)

"Man in an Orange Shirt" The BBC's Michael Samuels explores British queer history through a pair of connected love stories. Set 60 years apart, the film's dueling episodes demonstrate the evolving challenges of gay life for men in the UK from just after WWII to now. This hip drama, with its sublime ensemble Julian Morris, Vanessa Redgrave and "Downton Abbey"'s Laura Carmichael, gives us a glimpse a mindbending era of history with just the right orchestration of emotion. (Castro, 6/15)

"Fun in Boys Shorts" Along with its "Girl Shorts" twin, arguably Frameline's most popular program (always lines around the block), this year's eight short films span the waterfront from Will Gordh's sly, funny Tinseltown sendup "Matt & Dan's Sex Notes" to Alden Peters' "Femme," where cute Carson is told to butch it up, to English boy Rocket Ear's diction lesson, "Don't Fuck With England." Stephen Winter's "Bad Friend" features a cameo from Justin Vivian Bond. In Edward Jack's "The Fix," oral obsession plagues a fast-food worker. In Wes Akwuobi's "Routine," a standup comic reveals a secret. Canadian Chintis Lundren's "Manivald" finds a mom and son after the same hottie, and in "High Rocks," Tyler Wallach offers two hunky hikers with secrets of their own. (Castro, 6/16, 24)

"Fun in Girl Shorts" The female side is well-represented by seven shorts with great stories and titles to match. In "Grace and Betty" from Zoe Lubeck, a girl's decision to come out to her grandmother has unexpected consequences. In Nate Trinrud's "Pop Rox," a young woman discovers that telling a best friend a romantic secret is a task best done without company. Lauren Garroni's "Dick Sisters" provides this program with a plot twist Hitchcock would have loved. Jana Heaton offers a lovely tangled romantic mess in "Lesbehonest: I'll Be All Right," where a lesbian caps her bad breakup with a party that features too many prospective girlfriends. In Swedish director Julia Bostrom's "Children Alike," a brother foolishly takes his latest female lover home to meet his sister. In "Ice Cold" from Sekiya Dorsett, a young bride's wedding day features a rollercoaster of highs and lows. In "Dyke Bars Never Last," Stacy McKenzie illustrates this sad truth. (Castro, 6/16, 24; Piedmont, 6/23)


Scene from director Steve McLeans Postcards from London. Photo: Frameline  

"Postcards from London" When the handsome but shy redhead Jim (Harris Dickinson, "Beach Rats") leaves his provincial home for the bright lights of London's Soho, he quickly falls in with a gang of male escorts (don't say "rent boys!") who give him a crash course in the art world's erotic dark side. Jim is called a raconteur, meaning a young stud paid by older men to breathe excitement back into their canvasses. Written and directed by Steve McLean, this is both a sexy art appreciation course sampling some of Western Civilization's greatest painters (Caravaggio, Botticelli and Michelangelo) and a primer on the influence of passionate, contemporary homosexuality on the evolution of modern painting styles. (Castro, 6/16; Elmwood, 6/17)

"Paper Boys" Soap opera has arrived at this year's queer fest, and director Curtis Casella's six-episode caper is no gay slumber party. Our hero is Cole, a young East Coast queen experiencing a bit of cultural vertigo in SF. He's visiting to find a job and to witness the hetero engagement of his best friend Daren. Tensions rise as Cole urges Daren to break off his engagement, with resulting domestic chaos. (Victoria, 6/16)

"Every Act of Life" Jeff Kaufman performs a great service, an act of love, with his moving oral history of the life and career of gay playwright Terrence McNally. You probably know McNally works "The Lisbon Traviata," "Lips Together, Teeth Apart," "Master Class" and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" Born in Corpus Christi before Gay Liberation hit urban Texas, McNally experienced the brutal bigotry of religious-fueled homophobia, but he also lucked out with mentoring from a wise teacher. Kaufman deftly weaves the highlights of McNally's stage career with an A cast of interviews with Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Christine Baranski and Edie Falco. (Castro, 6/16)


Scene from director Ellen Smits Just Friends. Photo: Frameline  

"1985" Texan director Yen Tan returns to the fest with a mid-80s family drama. Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his religiously afflicted family's rural Texas home wondering whether to come out to them. Delivered by an all-star cast including Smith ("Carol"), Dad (Michael Chiklis) Mom (Virginia Madsen), and childhood girlfriend Jamie Chung ("Once Upon a Time"). (Castro, 6/17)

"The Gospel of Eureka" Narrated by Justin Vivian Bond, this documentary focuses on the quaint Arkansas town of Eureka Springs as its residents prepare to vote on a historic LGBTQ rights ordinance, against a backdrop of gospel-themed drag shows and the nation's largest outdoor passion play. (Castro, 6/17)

"When the Beat Drops" Famed choreographer Jamal Sims directs this bold, energetic film about "bucking," a dance subculture popular in the South's black LGBTQ community, from its beginnings at black colleges and universities, through its evolution at underground clubs, on to fierce competitions at large venues. (Castro, 6/18; Piedmont, 6/21)

"Hard Paint" In this moody, sensual Brazilian drama, winner of the 2018 Teddy Award, Pedro (Shico Menegat) makes his living doing webcam shows while smearing his naked body with neon paint. When a mysterious performer begins copying his act, Pedro confronts him and finds something unexpected. Co-directors Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon offer a Latin American slacker comedy in the tradition of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." (Castro, 6/19)

"Just Friends" This Dutch treat from director Ellen Smit provides two gay boys in love with a modern twist. Aspiring doctor Yad (Majd Mardo) has traded life in party-down Amsterdam for the quiet of a small Dutch berg where his parents reside. Yad's job as a domestic comes with the bonus of an older friend, Ans (Jenny Arean). Ans introduces Yad to her dashing young grandson Joris (Josha Stradowski), and romantic sparks fly. (Castro, 6/20, 24)

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