Frameline, San Francisco’s LGBT film festival, begins its 43rd event beginning June 20, 2019. As the oldest LGBT festival, Frameline certainly isn’t showing its age.
While it would be impossible to catch every film prior to the festival beginning (but I did try), here’s a sampling of some of the noteworthy narrative features playing at Frameline. There may be other equally impressive titles not mentioned here but I either didn’t have time or access to screen them. But I will update this blog should I have new information to report.
“The Garden Left Behind” is the best picture of the many I’ve seen in preparing for the festival. Well written, acted and directed, this movie is not only real and heartbreaking, but it’s very topical. Tina (a breakout performance by Carlie Guevara) is a pre-op trans woman earning money driving a cab. As she goes to schedule the operation, complications (not limited to her being an undocumented citizen) arise. Besides the lead’s bravura performance, the entire cast makes for a great ensemble under Flavio Alves’ direction (and from a screenplay he co-wrote). It also deals with violence against trans people, which unfortunately is in today’s headlines every day.
“Benjamin” is quite the quirky little film due to its title character. Asperger or just millennial, Benjamin is trying to follow-up with his ultra-successful first film and isn’t sure if he’s sophomore effort will live up to its audience expectations. To complicate matters, while he’s trying to finish his film, he finds a love interest in the lead singer of a band. Sweet and endearing, this movie is a must-see, especially thanks to the drool performance of Colin Morgan and his spot on delivery of dynamic dialog.
“Before You Know It” takes quirky to a new extreme. The Gurner sisters take their love for theatre home. Literally. They live about a theatre with their once-famous dad (Mandy Patinkin). While they struggle to makes ends meet with their artsy, non-attended shows, they learn they have a famous soap opera mother (an over-the-top Judith Light). The chemistry between the sisters seems real as the director (Hannah Pearl Utt) and writer (Jen Tullock) play the sisters and likely are real life friends. I do wish, while it’s a tiny topic, they fleshed out Utt’s lesbian character a tad more with more of her sexuality included on screen. Sure it’s a story about the family and being lesbian isn’t even part of the plot. But if you’re five minutes late to the movie, you wouldn’t even know she was a lesbian.
Quirky seems to be a theme here as “Cubby” can be described as just that. Director/writer/star Mark Blane makes it clear from the beginning that this is based upon his life as his character’s name is Mark Nabel which is awfully close to his own. This is a fish out of water story – but he doesn’t know it! A young Midwestern man decides to move to New York and his playful, innocent outlook is as simple-minded as the children he babysitting.
Big stars show up in many of these films and “Guest Artist” is no exception. Jeff Daniels plays a famous playwright who is down on his luck so he takes his latest play – and attitude – and heads off to Michigan. Daniels gives a masterful performance in a movie he also wrote.
“More Beautiful for Having Been Broken” offers puzzle pieces of a story that sometimes seem not to be the right fit, but by the end of this lesbian-themed film, all the pieces meld together, connecting all the loose ends.
“Sell By” is a great millennial-ish love story between an artist (Scott Evans) who mostly does the work for a famed artist who takes credit for his work and a fashion stylist (Augustus Prew) who can’t even eat breakfast with putting it on Instagram. A good movie to show compromise in a relationship that shows that even picture-perfect romances have blurred edges.
“Simple Wedding” has all the qualities to become a mainstream hit. Our lead character straight Nousha (Tara Grammy) has her challenges of being an independent woman who is pressured by her Persian family to find a nice Persian man to marry. She does find a man but he’s white and bisexual. A fun tale in trying to get her parents on board to respect her real love instead of arranged marriage, the movie also features a cute subplot featuring Rita Wilson.
“Stray Dolls” seems to be another immigrant story as Riz (Geetanjali Thapa) comes to the US from India. But instead, while she has the atypical immigrant job as a maid, she encounters a spirited young woman who quotes Dolly Parton and a sassy performance from Cynthia Nixon as Riz’ boss. Gritty and fun – all rolled into one.
“End of the Century” has one of the best and most interesting opening sequences: it’s practically silent. We view Barcelona through the eyes of Ocha (Juan Barberini) where we see what he sees and, without the interaction of others, no dialog. At some point, Ocha finds someone to talk to and the movie is still captivating as we see his relationship with women, his health and men he picks up.
“Fireflies” is a great character study of an Iranian man who flees to Mexico to avoid persecution for being gay. While doing what he can to survive, he still dreams of a better life and tries to make this happen. Well acted by sexy lead Arash Marandi.
At first, I didn’t think I was going to find any standout lesbian features and then I found “Carmen & Lola.” A great glimpse into the treatment of lesbians and women in general in the machismo Spanish world. This movie of a developing relationship with two teens, not only shows the struggles women have as they are forced to be subservient but it boasts two Oscar-level performances from Lola’s parents, played by Moreno Borja and Rafaela Leon.
“Monsters” is the story of a married couple who on the surface seems to be an idyllic couple but, as we see a day in each of their lives, there may be troubles bubbling below the surface. A very interesting story told a la he said/she said that unfolds with secrets and understanding.
“Tehran: City of Love” is a magnificent blend of three tales of love and desire – a receptionist at a beauty clinic with self-esteem issues (Forough Ghajabagli) who catfishes men and sets up meetings and sits at a distance table to drool to a former bodybuilder/personal trainer (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) who likely has desires for his male client but tough to act on it in the Middle East and a religious singer (Mehdi Saki) who wants more out of his career and life. This movie from writer/director Ali Jaberansari mixes the three stories together and finding great ways to weave them together.
“This is Not Berlin” is the perfect example of what trouble teens can get into simply because they’re bored. This tale from Mexico gives an honest look at coming out and coming of age – all the while being seduced by gay clubs, drugs and rock and roll.