Thursday, June 19, 2008

Frameline 32 - Day 3 Preview

Frameline 32 (aka the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival) continues in full force on Saturday, June 21 with no less than EIGHTEEN programs to choose from! Of those, I have seen five, not including the enormously popular FUN IN BOYS SHORTS and FUN IN GIRLS SHORTS. If you are not one of the masses going to these two shorts programs in the morning, you COULD run over to the Victoria.

OUT ON THE DANCE FLOOR (dir. Anthony Palombit, US, 2008, 90 mins.) With a little Google'ing, I found that this was actually part of Anthony Palombit's doctoral thesis, and in that aspect, it is much more understandable. As a documentary feature, it seems a bit clinical, with the stories of San Francisco's Sundance Saloon thrown in there for local and entertainment diversion from the exceptionally dry documentation of a men's therapy group. A couple of the members of the men's group (including the director) do go to the Sundance Saloon, which seems to be the only link between the two subjects. The screener I saw was still a work in progress, however, the objective of the work as a whole would be much more successful if the two subjects were split into their own films and further explored. As it is, the apparent quirkiness of a two-stepping gay bar (which doesn't seem that quirky to myself, having grown up in Denver, home of Charlie's!) never attains the entertainment value it could with the inter-cutting of the men's therapy group. Additionally, the therapy group scenes never reach a satisfying conclusion since we've been distracted by the Sundance Saloon interviews. It's a project that could continue to grow, if he elected to do so. Seeing that it is a local filmmaker, I would expect that Palombit and his interview subjects will be at the screening, provided they could be dragged away from the FUN IN BOYS SHORTS program that is screening concurrently at the Castro.

EQUALITY U (dir. Dave O’Brien, US, 2008, 91 mins.) This might be an exceptionally provocative documentary about the activists on the “Soulforce Equality Ride” which sought to confront religious oriented universities that deny and renounce homosexual students. The majority of the documentary focuses on the internal dynamics of the group as they continually face arrest for civil disobedience for trespassing on university grounds. Activists do make for fascinating documentary subjects, as they have an inherent sense of drama to begin with, so this film is never dull! In fact, it is their own faith that seems to become something of a stumbling block for some of the members. I personally do have a bit of a qualm with why a gay student would WANT to attend where he/she is not wanted, especially under the cultural and religious grounds that these universities espouse. However, the "Soulforce" group's goal seems to be a quest to crack open some of the last institutional bastions of homophobia, than it is to protect the rights of the closeted students. Overall, it is a fine example of documentary of an activist group, that does not take it upon itself to be propaganda for the subject.

MOM, I DIDN'T KILL YOUR DAUGHTER (dir. Orna Ben Dor, Israel, 2007, 50 Mins.) This is one of two documentaries screening this year (along with SHE'S A BOY I KNEW) about the transgender transition that actually focuses as much on the families as with the subject undergoing transition. Here, the subject is from Israel and the FTM (female-to-male) transition she is making has more sociological impact, as the importance of the female in Jewish society makes the "loss" of the daughter to becoming a man even more of a hurdle for her mother to accept. (There are also some segments regarding the difficulty in changing their passports to indicate their sex change, too.) The mother is an exceptionally brave individual for her participation in this documentary, as she faces a continual negotiation of her daughter's sexual identity. She has been involved with another FTM for several years, thus they will be two males in love. This is as much about the mother's journey as it is about her daughter/son's. It can be quite gripping at times, unlike the next documentary I screened.

WORKING ON IT (dirs. Sabina Baumann, Karin Michalski, Germany, 2008, 50 mins.) Subtitled, "Conversations, Performances, Queer Electronics", it is the "Conversations" that nearly killed this for me. Over half the film features "talking heads" lecturing on their personal views of sexual identity in art and the workplace. It is nearly three fourths of the film before we see the group take over an abandoned supermarket to install their work, including some performances from a couple bands (who I think I should know, but do not). It is a bit too little, way too late. The forty minutes of lectures may not have seem so daunting, if not dull, had they not been in a different language, or at the very least, photographed against some sort of background, instead of the green wall that each of them are seated in front of. In fact, once the installation is set up, a viewing area is arranged where these interviews are played for an audience THERE! So, we have artists, talking about art, being art? I just don't think so. The fifty minutes felt twice as long. The screening will be preceded by a short that has just as a formidably dry subject matter: "A Complicated Queerness" explores issues of gender, power and sexism throughout the documentation of femme identities and lives within the San Francisco dyke community. It is only 17 minutes, but the two films are obviously targeted at a specific audience, that I am not a part of.

MANUELA Y MANUEL (dir. Raul Marchand Sanchez, Puerto Rico, 2007, 94 mins.) Finally! A COMEDY!! And one that DID make me LAUGH! Though I did not necessarily find it as much a "dramedy" as the FRAMELINE program describes it, I did find it filled with those farcical, yet human touches reminiscent of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and a little bit of TORCH SONG TRILOGY. Humberto Busto (best known for his role as Gael Garcia Bernal’s best friend in AMORES PERROS) is fantastic as a drag queen, who volunteers to pose as an Iraq bound soldier marrying his best girl friend, who is pregnant from a one-night stand and must face her conservative family. He is ably supported by the performers playing the bride's parents (names escape me!), who deliver farcical gems themselves! The production design is big and colorful, and the costume design is fabulous - not only during the drag acts, but at the wedding itself, too! The music score is fun, and Busto's lip-synching is marvelous to watch. It's a delight to watch, even if you have a propensity against subtitles!

Maxxxxx says
re OUT ON THE DANCE FLOOR: "Breakfast?" (Hmmm... I guess it's too early for Maxxxxx?)
re EQUALITY U: "Cranky bird!"
re WORKING ON IT: "Is it bedtime?"

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