Thursday, April 18, 2024

Leathermen, Showgirls and the Bible Belt Among the Diversity of the SF LGBT Film Festival Docs

Frameline, San Francisco’s long running LGBT film festival through June 30, has many noteworthy documentaries that should be checked out.

While it would be impossible to see all of the movies at Frameline (but I do try), here’s a sample of some of the top documentaries.

“For They Know Not What They Do” is one of the best crafted documentaries I have ever seen and it succinctly covers a lot of ground with its stories of religion and being gay. The movie weaves together several tales of coming out to a religious family and shares the highs and some of the lows that will ripe your heart out. A lot of documentaries have great stories to tell and we forgive them for inferior production qualities. But this movie hits the mark on every level – from point of view to cinematography. This should be a contender for Best Documentary at the Oscars. It’s that good.

“Queering the Script” is quite thought provoking. On the one side, it shows how fandome can support and help make a TV show a success and all-the-while showing how bonding over a show can lead to long term friendship and love. On the other hand, it enlightens us that while LGBT people were the characters de jour one year, adding many diverse characters to mainstream TV. But then, suddenly in one year they killed off most of the lesbians, creating a backlash among the lesbian community, causing heated discussions in the TV community and all sparked by a hashtag campaign – #buryyourgays.  Very informative and definitely worth a screening.

“You Don’t Nomi” is as fun and creative as the film’s title. This is behind-the-scenes story of “Showgirls,” the cult classic film that is in about every gay man’s repertoire of movies to screen. It shows the film’s underwhelming premiere, in which it flopped and, after multiple critics panned it, it  won many Razzie Awards for the worst film. Then, as the years pass, it’s no longer taken so seriously and, thanks to support from its fans, mostly the gay community, a cult classic is born. Interviewees include local drag icon Peaches Christ who embraced the movie from the beginning and screened it annually for nearly 20 years and Bay Area resident April Kidwell, who starred in the Off-Broadway and traveling production of the musical of “Showgirls.”  After screening, we will all know Nomi.

You Don’t Nomi

“Making Montgomery Clift” had more information then I thought I’d learn, considering I am friends with one of his relatives. But Robert Clift shares moments of Montgomery’s life, thanks to old recordings, photographs and notes Robert’s father (Montgomery’s brother) had kept and maintained for years.

“Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” is a surprise to me – and surprises make for good movies. I was never a fan of the “Nightmare” movie so I didn’t see any of the sequels. Well, I never knew of all of the gay subtext in Part 2 including shower scenes and S&M! This certainly makes me want to check this out. But behind the scenes, star Mark Patton’s career was very much hurt by the film as gay characters (and actors) weren’t the stars of big budget films in the mid-1980s. Check out the film as Patton does what he can to overcome the stigma that followed.

“Gay Chorus Deep South” is much more uplifting then I thought it would be. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus go to the Bible belt, to where many of the members of the chorus are from before they moved to the Bay Area. Performing at churches and reuniting with Baptist relatives, one would think there would be more drama and hate. But the movie shows that sometimes, a little enlightening is all one needs to accept and respect.

Mr Leather

“Mr. Leather” is one of the many examples of how the leather community is just that: a community. This movie showcases Brazil’s very first Mr. Leather competition and how, although a competition, there’s a sense of family among the contenders and how they support each other.

“Fabulous” is fabulous! Lasseindra Ninja leaves her home in French Guiana as a man and comes back as a woman. Besides a positive attitude about herself, she comes back complete with skills as a vogue dancer and ready to support and education a troupe of young people who are looking for a place to be accepted and to thrive. Some of their tales are heart wrenching but they learn to leave them behind on the dance floor.

“Thanks to Hank” is a local SF movie exploring the life and work of Hank Wilson. Wilson is one of the pioneers for LGBT activism and he fought for our rights with a smile and a cool head. While many of us take for granted the progress we’ve made, this movie pays tribute to a man that stood up for us and did it for equality.

Thanks to Hank

“Camp Chaos” is listed as an episodic entry but it’s worth mentioning here. It takes the actor from “Getting Go: the Go Doc Project” (from Frameline37) and follows him as he talks and meets up with other men through gay sex apps. Camp recreates many of his sexual encounters he had…vividly and explicitly. This movies is hot and sexual and some might deem a well photographed porn movie.

“Vision Portraits” is from a terrific filmmaker Rodney Evans (His “Happy Sad” was a highlight from Frameline 37). Evans does some interviews with LGBT arts who happen to have vision impairments – including himself, which has developed since he was at the last Frameline). It’s amazing to see their vision of the work when someone of the arts can’t even see at all.

“Sid & Judy” is a movie that many gay men would love to see. Me too. But no screening of the story of the Judy Garland and Sid Luft marriage.

To get tickets and check out screening times, go to

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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