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Lights, camera, lesbians @ Frameline 42

by Sari Staver

"Snapshots," directed by Melanie Mayron, is part of Frameline 42. Photo: Courtesy Frameline
"Snapshots," directed by Melanie Mayron, is part of Frameline 42. Photo: Courtesy Frameline  

In a nod to the #TimesUp movement, more than half the films at this year's Frameline LGBTQ film festival are either directed or co-directed by queer women. "Supporting films made by women is an ongoing, longterm trend at Frameline," said senior programmer Peter Stein in a recent telephone interview with the B.A.R. Frameline's "historic commitment to making sure there's a diversity of voices" is reflected in the program, said Stein, now in his fifth year at the LGBTQ festival.

Frameline 42 runs from June 14-24 at four venues in the Bay Area: the Castro Theatre, the Roxie, the Victoria, and the Piedmont. The online program can be found at www.frameline.org. More than 52% of the films, including narratives, documentaries, and shorts, were directed or co-directed by queer women, with dozens more featuring stories about women, Stein said.

The theme of this year's 11-day festival, "Lights. Camera. Take Action," "speaks directly to our mission to change the world through the power of queer media," wrote executive director Frances Wallace in the program guide. A "standout set of programs" reflects the times we live in. "Rise Up! Queer Women Filmmakers Take the Helm" showcases films and discussions from the unique perspective of queer, lesbian, and transgender women.


Its Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School is Debra Chasnoffs groundbreaking 1996 documentary. Photo: Courtesy Frameline  

As part of a special initiative supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Frameline 42 "shines a spotlight on the historic achievements and current state of queer women in filmmaking, through a robust selection of new films by women directors, a panel discussion, an onstage conversation with award-winning filmmaker Madeline Olnek and a special tribute program to the late Oscar-winning documentary director and activist Debra Chasnoff, who died last year," wrote the programming team in the catalog.

Browsing through the 136-page program is rewarding but time-consuming, so the B.A.R. asked programmer Stein to cut to the chase with recommendations and comments. Stein pointed out two free programs about women. One, "Queer Women Documentarians in the Spotlight" (Castro, 6/19, 5 p.m.), features an "all star group" who take a look at the present and future of the queer women's documentary. The discussion takes place immediately following the screening of "Dykes, Camera, Action!" at 4 p.m., and is expected to include that film's director, Caroline Berler, as well as Kimberly Reed (director, "Dark Money"); B. Ruby Rich, professor of film and digital media at UC/Santa Cruz; and Yvonne Welbon, producer of "Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis@100.";

Another free program, a conversation with filmmaker Madeline Olnek, will be held at the Roxie (6/21, 4 p.m.). Olnek directed this year's U.S. Centerpiece film, "Wild Nights with Emily," which will be screened at the Castro (6/20, 6:30 p.m.).

"Emily," which stars Molly Shannon as a defiantly gay Emily Dickinson, premiered to enthusiastic reviews at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, said Stein, calling the film "a subversive and very funny counternarrative revisionist view of the life of Emily Dickinson," noting that there has been a "strong archival record" of the author's relationship with her sister-in-law, who lived next door. "It's a fiction film, but deeply researched," he said.


Skate Kitchen, directed by Crystal Moselle, is part of Frameline 42. Photo: Courtesy Frameline  

As part of its retrospective program, the festival will screen "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School," Debra Chasnoff's groundbreaking 1996 documentary about teaching LGBTQ issues in elementary schools. The film, which screens at the Castro (6/20, 4 p.m.), will be followed by a posthumous presentation of the 2018 Frameline Award and a tribute to Chasnoff by Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. According to Stein, the tribute will include a "sneak preview" of the film Chasnoff was making when she died., called "Prognosis." Chasnoff spent over two years chronicling her struggle with cancer, Stein said, and colleagues who worked on the film with her intend to complete it. "It was her way of remaining an activist as her life focused more and more on her health," he said.

Other films directed by women include:

"Lez Bomb," directed by Jenna Laurenzo, a comedy about a New Jersey family Thanksgiving (Victoria, 6/16, 6:45 p.m.).

"Skate Kitchen," directed by Crystal Moselle, a narrative film with a largely non-professional cast in a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of real-life Skate Kitchen girls Moselle met on a train. It screens at the Roxie (6/18, 9:15 p.m.).

"Snapshots," directed by Melanie Mayron, tells the story of three generations of women who come together for a weekend at the family's lakeside home, featuring Piper Laurie. (Victoria, 6/21, 6:30 p.m.)

"Chedeng and Apple," directed by Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada, tells the story of two veteran Filipina beauty-queen actresses who reunite, in a black comedy about wacky women on the run. (Roxie, 6/23, 1:45 p.m.)

"Bixa Travesty," the winner of the Teddy Award for best documentary at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, is directed by Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscilla. It showcases the life and political artistry of Brazilian performer Linn da Quebrada. (Victoria, 6/15, 9:30 p.m.)


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