Friday, May 23, 2014

Frameline38 Press Conference

Earlier this week, Frameline held a press conference for the 38th San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the oldest & largest such film festival in the world. Acting Executive Director Frances Wallace, Director of Exhibition & Programming Des Buford & Senior Programmer Peter L. Stein, all looking quite happy, announced the schedule. Over 200 features, documentaries & shorts from 31 countries will be presented at the Castro, Roxie & Victoria Theatres in San Francisco & the Elmwood in Berkeley, June 19 - 29. Opening night is The Case Against 8, a documentary about the legal challenge to Prop 8. The 4 plaintiffs will be in attendance, & it should be a crowd-pleaser. George Takei is profiled in the centerpiece documentary To Be Takei & will receive the festival's Frameline Award. The centerpiece narrative feature is Lilting, an intimate drama in English & Mandarin starring Ben Whishaw & Cheng Pei-Pei of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Closing night is Ich Fühl Mich Disco, a laboriously odd coming-of-age comedy from Germany.

Showcase features include Der Kreis, a docudrama about the post-war gay scene in Zürich, & The Way He Looks, a teenage love story from Brazil revolving around a blind student. The documentary selections include profiles of Greg Louganis, Susan Sontag, Barney Frank & Kristin Beck, a transgender former Navy Seal. Mr. Frank & Ms. Beck are expected to attend. There will be a spotlight on contemporary Russia, including a documentary with the best title in the festival: Pussy vs. Putin. There are many shorts programs, including one devoted to queer horror. Three free panels at the Roxie explore New Storytelling. The life of author Violette Leduc receives both narrative & documentary treatments. The programmers also mentioned Helicopter Mom & Appropriate Behavior as laugh-out-loud funny.

 The press conference included screenings of the opening & closing night films. The Case Against 8 was made over a period of 4 years, with the filmmakers embedded in the swank San Francisco offices of the American Foundation of Equal Rights, as the lawyers pursue their case against the ban on gay marriage all the way to the Supreme Court. The legal team was famously led by the unlikely pair of David Boies & Ted Olson, a former Solicitor General under George W. Bush. Mr. Olson states categorically that "Marriage is a conservative value." The committed & well-resourced lawyers never look like the underdogs. We also get a peek into the lives of the 2 couples who were plaintiffs in the case & were probably vetted more carefully than any political candidate. The plaintiffs occasionally get teary-eyed, & SF audiences will enjoy seeing California Attorney General Kamala Harris cheerfully ordering a flummoxed clerk at the Los Angeles city hall to issue a marriage license for Messrs. Katami & Zarrillo.

I Feel Like Disco is a coming-of-age story about an awkward, overweight adolescent & his equally frowsy father, both taking stumbling steps forward after the sudden loss of the family's warm & protective mother. Several cringe-worthy scenes involve the boy's crush on a spotty-faced Romanian teenager. The film's earnestly kitschy style is affectionately low-brow & incorporates fantasy sequences & a soundtrack that puts Rachmaninoff next to the German disco songs of Christian Steiffen. Filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim makes an amusing cameo appearance as a calmly sympathetic sex counselor.

§ Frameline38
San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
June 19 - 29, 2014
Castro Theatre, Roxie Theatre, Victoria Theatre in San Francisco
Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley

§ The Case Against 8
Directors: Ben Cotner, Ryan White
USA, 2013, 112 Minutes

§ I Feel Like Disco (Ich Fühl Mich Disco)
Director: Axel Ranisch
Germany, 2013, 95 Minutes

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