FRAMELINE34: THE SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL LGBT FILM FESTIVAL
BUILDS BRIDGES ACROSS DIVERSE COMMUNITIES
San Francisco, CA — Frameline, the world’s largest resource for LGBT media and film, is proud to announce several premieres and highlights for Frameline34 — the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. This year’s internationally renowned showcase for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) cinema runs June 17-27, with San Francisco screenings at the historic Castro Theatre (429 Castro Street), Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street) and the Victoria Theatre (2961 16th Street), and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood (2966 College Avenue).
During the 11 days of the Frameline34 Film Festival, tens of thousands of people from the Bay Area and all across the globe will come together to see the best of the 500+ films submitted this past year from more than 20 countries including Brazil, Norway, Tunisia, and the Bahamas. Tickets for Frameline34 are on sale through www.frameline.org.
The festival will open with THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS ANNE LISTER by James Kent, a passionate drama portraying the true story of a British lesbian who defied early nineteenth century conventions by living with a female lover until her death in 1840. The film is based on Lister’s diaries — concealed in a code that was only recently deciphered — and provides extraordinary insight into the life of Britain’s “first modern lesbian.”
The festival will close with HOWL by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the story of the early years of beat poet Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco of Milk) and Peter Orlovsky (played by Broadway vet Aaron Tveit). Directors Epstein and Friedman (Oscar winners for The Times of Harvey Milk) create a masterpiece of a film with supporting performances by Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker and Treat Williams. Orlovsky’s recent passing will make this an all the more poignant and moving experience.
MISSION OF THE FESTIVAL
As the world’s oldest and largest LGBT film festival, Frameline34 is a landmark event that draws together the LGBT, independent film, and media arts communities for 11 days of diverse, innovative, and socially relevant cinema. From documentaries about undiscovered heroes to the little-known gems of a queer art icon and filmmakers who are experimenting with storytelling and aesthetics today, Frameline34 builds bridges between past and present, and sparks conversations about the future of LGBT culture.
REVIEWS by Erik Anderson
GROWN UP MOVIE STAR
Directed by Adriana Maggs
In a cold, wintry town in Newfoundland, a young girl and her father clash as both embark on burgeoning sexualities in Adriana Maggs’s fantastic debut feature. Shawn Doyle (Joey, from HBO’s “Big Love”) plays Ray, a disgraced former hockey player who is now taking care of his two young daughters after the recent divorce from his wife of 20 years. He also has a secret: he’s deeply in the closet, even to himself.
Newcomer Tatiana Maslany (2010 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner) gives a fiery, star-making performance as Ray’s oldest daughter, 13-year-old Ruby. She dreams of nothing but getting out of her small Canadian town to become a model and actress in the United States. She’s rebellious and reckless, clawing her way out of childhood to womanhood in as short an amount of time as possible. She hooks up with her school’s only American student, who appears to be quite a few years beyond her age. She is less interested in him as a person and more if he’s ever met any celebrities.
When Ruby discovers her father and her school’s gym teacher together, it sets off a chain reaction of out of control behavior, including taking “head shot” photos by her trusted family friend Stuart (affectionately referred to as “Uncle Stuart”) that lead to a much more salacious and dangerous situation. Sadly, Ruby doesn’t care that her father is gay; she just wants honesty from her father, honesty that he is unable to provide her, which sets her on that perilous path.
Adriana Maggs’s debut is a solid, exceptional character study that reminded me of Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank from 2009. That also featured a brilliant turn by a young newcomer in Katie Jarvis, playing a girl of budding sexuality dying to get out of her small town. What Maggs succeeds at is the development of both Ruby and Ray as their journeys run parallel and eventually collide in a father-daughter relationship that is honest, realistic and moving.
I KILLED MY MOTHER
Directed by Xavier Dolan
In Xavier Dolan’s ferocious debut (Canada’s submission for the Foreign Film Oscar and a 2009 Un Certain Regard winner at Cannes), the intensity of the love/hate relationship between mother and child is dialed up to 11 in this brutal, funny and at times horrific examination of a bond that has rarely been this explicit on film.
Hubert (Dolan, who also wrote the screenplay and produced) is a petulant and abusive son to his single mother Chantale (brilliantly played by Anne Dorval). The simple act of eating breakfast is cause for him referring to her as a pig. Not to be outdone she matches him with truly passive aggressive behavior that she knows will aggravate him. Their relationship is practically dependent on this push/pull and at times becomes positively Oedipal in nature. At times it’s as if we are watching a husband and wife in the throes of domestic insanity worthy of Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf. When Hubert makes a few small efforts to get along with his mother (he makes breakfast, he does the laundry), it’s not met with overflowing gratitude as he expects. It goes unrecognized by his mother, as he is not doing anything extraordinary but merely what she’s been asking him to do all along. This further divides the two, creating an epic chasm.
A wonderful element of the film is that Hubert is gay and in a relationship. This is never a focal point of the story but another crack in the relationship when Chantale finds out this information through the boyfriend’s much cooler, hip mother at a sun-tanning salon. Chantale isn’t upset that her son is gay, she’s stunned that he hasn’t told her.
Due to Hubert’s actions at home and at school (he tells his teacher his mother is dead so that he doesn’t have to write a paper on her, hence the title), Chantale enrolls him into a private school, Our Lady of Sorrows. How apropos.
When they separate, Hubert, with all of the overwrought angst of a selfish teenager screams, “What would you do if I died tomorrow?!” to his mother. She stands there silent and motionless and when he leaves she says, “I’d die tomorrow.” Stunning, both in its honesty and its delivery.
After a night of tripping on ecstasy, Hubert stumbles back home in the middle of the night to profess his undying love for his mother. It’s met by fear and condemnation by her (“Are you on drugs?”) and he is crushed and shuns her. But, in an example of a mother’s undying love for her son, when the principal of the boarding school calls to admonish her parenting skills as a single mother, she unleashes a torrent of pent up rage that is both a fierce defense of her son and a staunch reprimand of the male hierarchy and double standard for women. It’s an epic moment for Chantale and Dorval is stunning and Oscar-worthy in this scene.
At a mere 19 when he made this, Dolan can certainly be guilty of stuffing his film with homages and inspiration, from 1950s French New Wave to the independent films of John Cassavetes in the early 1970s. The décor of their houses also echoes the 70s in its tacky, middlebrow hues of orange, yellow and brown. He frames shots of Hubert and Chantale talking not together but in separate frames, with each character at the far end as if the camera is trying to escape their verbal battles. Other times he breaks from his cinema verite style to venture into slow motion fantasy or video camera confessional (in crisp black and white). Another source of inspiration is clearly Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, as is seen in Kodachrome flashbacks of Hubert’s childhood home with his mother. Having seen Dolan’s second film, Heartbeats, at Cannes this year I can definitely say this crutch hasn’t lessened, it’s increased. For now that’s ok, he’s doing more at his age than most directors could wish to do in a career and Dolan is clearly a talent with a fantastic aesthetic and point of view.
EYES WIDE OPEN
Directed by Haim Tabakman
A slow boil churns inside Eyes Wide Open, the debut feature from director Haim Tabakman. Amidst the insular and oppressive community of orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, two men struggle and find love amongst the danger of oppression.
Aaron (a riveting and restrained Zohar Strauss) is a married butcher who takes over his father’s shop when he passes. Business is not doing well as we see him taking a day’s worth of meat and tossing it in the garbage. Enter Ezri (Israeli heartthrob Ran Danker), a young and handsome stranger without a job, an education or a place to stay. At first Aaron is indifferent to him but the mere offering of his telephone and a moment out of the downpour outside creates an intimate bond. Aaron offers Ezri a place to stay above the butcher shop, where his father used to go to rest. It’s not long before the friction of Aaron’s repressed desire percolates; while relaxing in a spring far out of town Aaron goes out of his way to not look at Ezri as he disrobes next him. Aaron carefully enters the spring with his boxers still on, removing them once in the water. He understands and recognizes what he is feeling and Strauss is perfection at presenting this with the utmost carefulness and subtlety.
When Ezri tries to kiss Aaron, Aaron stops his short, their lips about to touch. He espouses that this is the moment God created them for; to defer and avoid lust, to rise to the challenge to not give in. Ezri acquiesces to his wish, but not before the neighbor across the way witnesses the interaction. Unable to fight his feelings anymore, Aaron corners Ezri in the cooler of the butchery and feverishly and fervently they embrace, finishing the act before any clothes can even be removed.
It’s not long before the whispers and rumors start. Warnings arise from Aaron’s close-knit group of rabbis and in the form of the pashkavils, the posters that serve as alerts to behavior unbecoming in the neighborhood. Aaron and the rabbis confront a man for his actions on a young girl and we know it’s only a matter of time before Aaron and Ezri’s doomed relationship will fall victim to the same threats.
While it would be easy to dismiss this film as an Israeli Brokeback Mountain, the comparison is apt and earned. It’s a technically marvelous film. Its direction and cinematography capture the closed quarters and increasingly constricted opportunities for the lovers to meet and the script is both progressive and respectful to the region as well as to the characters.