Frameline37 festival highlights LGBT films

Selected films from the June 20 to 30 festival

bigjoy.courtesy.Frameline37
Frameline37/Courtesy

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The Altered Lives of LaVonne Sallee
“The Altered Lives of LaVonne Sallee” offers a 12-minute glimpse into the life of the Vallejo, Calif.-based Barbie Doll-altering artist. Sallee spent most of her life working as a banker, but after chancing upon San Francisco’s Altered Barbie Show in 2006, she was inspired to create her own humor-infused doll art and to make it as absurd as possible. Her disjointed, eccentric visual art takes the social context of Barbie and friends as a starting point for her foray into highly sexualized, often bastardized reimaginings of the iconic plaything. Sallee uses recycled material to depict Barbie doing everything from getting a colonoscopy to being “Barbie-Q’d” to recreating historical events and renowned works of art.

— Grace Lovio

Sunday, June 23, 11:00 AM
Victoria Theatre

Big Joy
According to him, San Francisco artist James Broughton was visited as a child by an angel named Hermy, who offered him the gifts of “intuition, articulation and merriment.” In his life and in his work as a poet and poetic filmmaker, Broughton used these gifts to instill a sense of playfulness and whimsy into all that he did. “Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton” documents the life of the famed boundary-pusher, from his troubled childhood, when his mother would subtract a quarter from his allowance every time he acted effeminately, to his torrid love affairs, including a hyper-charged romance with a film student 35 years his junior. Narrated by Broughton’s poetry and diary entries and loaded with interview content and footage from his films (including “Pleasure Garden,” “The Bed” and “Erogeny”), “Big Joy” is an inclusive feature that radiates with the love, joy and art that Broughton devoted his life to sharing.

— Grace Lovio

Saturday, June 22, 4:00 PM
Castro Theatre

Pit Stop
“Pit Stop” is the latest film from director Yen Tan, following a similar vein to his previous work, “Ciao.” This weighty and thought-provoking film, which won prizes at the Nashville and Dallas film festivals earlier this year, explores the themes of isolation, being gay in hostile territory and uneasy intimacy with the unblinking eye of documentary-style cinematography and incisive writing. Two characters, both blue-collar gay Texans, navigate their complicated desires for love, family, freedom and clear identity. These struggles are expressed in lovely and unlovely scenes that examine the liminal spaces of previous marriages, broken relationships and the threshold of death. Blessed with more vision and a larger budget than the gay movies of yesteryear, “Pit Stop” carries enough weight to be mentioned in the same sentence as “Brokeback Mountain” but offers better and more tender sex scenes and an ending that will keep your heart in one piece.

Meg Elison

Friday, June 21, 4:00 PM
Castro Theatre

Mia
The audience never meets Mia, the titular character of director Javier van de Couter’s Argentine drama, in person, but it gets to know her through a diary she left behind for her young daughter Julia. One day, Ale, a trans woman living in the Pink Village, a poverty-stricken area inhabited by mostly trans residents, finds this diary and tries to solve the mystery of Mia’s disappearance. Ale longs for the things Mia had: financial stability, a house and a family. She frequently takes trips through wealthy neighborhoods and yearns for the life she never had access to. Eventually, while trying to piece together an explanation for Mia’s disappearance, Ale is lured into Mia’s home by Julia, who seeks a stable guardian outside of her alcoholic father.

Ale is caught between wanting a “normal” life and living in the village that houses her close friends, but she is constantly under threat of police violence. While gorgeously shot and featuring a stunning performance from trans actress Camila Sosa Villada, the film seems to stick to misconceived notions of what success and family constitute and tends toward the saccharine.

Rene Hernandez

Thursday, June 27, 11:00 AM
Castro Theatre

Interior. Leather Bar
James Franco teams up with San Francisco-based director Travis Mathews to recreate the allegedly “missing” 40 minutes from William Friedkin’s “Cruising” (1980), in which an undercover detective visits a gay S&M nightclub. The resulting film is “Interior. Leather Bar,” a strange hybrid of documentary and fiction in which it is never really clear who is acting, who is the audience or what is scripted. Franco’s friend Val Lauren agrees to take the leading part, played by Al Pacino in the original film. The film’s most powerful scene features a discussion between Franco and Lauren, during which they consider their response to the sexually explicit scenes they are filming, questioning, “Would it feel different if it were a guy and a girl?” Franco reflects on heteronormativity and societal norms in Hollywood films: “I don’t like realizing that my mind has been twisted by the way that the world has been set up around me, and what that is is straight, normative kind of behavior, and it’s fucking instilled into my brain … Every fucking love story is a dude that wants to be with a girl, and the only way they’re going to end up happy is if they walk off into the sunset together. I’m fucking sick of that shit. So if there’s a way for me to just break that up in my own mind, I’m all for it. … Sex should be a storytelling tool, but we’re so fucking scared of it. Everybody talks about sex, but don’t dare put it in a movie! Don’t show gay sex! Show people getting blown away and killed, but don’t show gay sex!”

— Meadhbh McGrath

Sunday, June 23, 9:15 PM
Castro Theatre

“Blood in the Grass”
The short film anthology “Blood in the Grass” presents four directors’ takes on the unequal status of gays in America and Israel. Stories of love and conflict are cast upon the backdrop of a society with strict (and even lethal) regulations on homosexuality. While mostly an exaggeration LGBT community in the West, these films call attention to the fact that, in many other parts of the world, this dystopia remains a reality.

In “The Naturalist,” for instance, a mysterious female agent is sent to rehabilitate a man into having normalized sexual and emotional desires. Challenging questions are posed, which many must face daily: Is love worth persecution? Is acceptance worth denying one’s true identity? And how can anyone precisely define normality?

Together, these films combine elements of science-fiction with real struggles faced by the gay world, producing a flawed but often fascinating result.

— Erik Weiner

Friday, June 28, 9:15 PM
Victoria Theatre

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