Friday, September 02, 2011

Frameline 2011

I'm late again this year in my review of all the films I watched at this year's Frameline Filmfest. Fortunately, one of the films I was unable to view in June was recently shown in Berkeley, so I was able to catch it, too.

The Night Watch (IMDb link)

I started off the filmfest with this import from the UK. (Let me preface this by saying I sometimes struggle with British and Irish's either the accent, humor, or storyline. Yes, yes...Hollywood has either tainted me or I just do not get the English.) This movie is from a Sarah Waters novel and mixed in a variety of interconnected stories post-WW2. Most of the stories involved LGBT characters, but not all.

The characters, acting, and scenery were great. The stories were very interesting, too, but I think too much time was spent on one of the characters wandering aimlessly around London. Overall, I liked it, and thought it was a nice time-period piece with lesbian and gay characters.

We Who Are Sexy: The Whirlwind History of Transgender Images in Cinema

This one wasn't really a movie, but a collection of movie clips from over the years that had some sort of transgender topic or idea. These were not the mainstream movies or even some of the B-movies that have had transgender themes...these were the fairly obscure and hard to find movies. Some of the clips were entertaining, many weren't. Film historians Jenni Olson and Susan Stryker narrated these clips in person. I kinda wish I had skipped this one, but in the land of independent films, it's hard to pick out all the good ones worth seeing.

Renée (Netflix link)

Being an athlete, and a transsexual athlete at that, I really wanted to catch this documentary on Renee Richards, a transsexual tennis star from the 70's. When Renee burst on the scene in 1976, I was only 6 years old and had no idea what was happening in the world of tennis...let alone the transgender world. This documentary took a good look at her life, along with excerpts from many of her friends and competitors from that era. I really liked this film as it gave me a glimpse of how things were for a transsexual athlete in the 70's. This documentary was enabled through ESPN sports, so the editing and film quality were fantastic.

Judas Kiss (IMDb link)(Netflix link) (website)

The past few years I have tried to cram in any movie that at least looks decent. This one was from the gay male variety, so the theatre was mainly filled with gay men. The story involved a gay screenwriter getting a chance to go back and make things right in college. The acting was a little shy here and there, but overall fairly good. Being gay with the concept of time travel, though, opened up an interesting scene of having sex with one's self. This film ended up being a little corny and had some major gaps, but it was entertaining and had fairly good camera work.

Films: Transtastic (Trans Shorts)

I was late to this set of transgender short films because someone smashed into my car while I was driving on my way to the BART station. (More on that in another post.) As I like to tell any of my friends that go with me to any set of short films, there are usually all types...from the serious, to the funny, to the romantic...and typically there is always a stoner flick. In this case, we had them all, including at least one stoner flick.

My friend, Marty, had a film selected for this collection of shorts. I helped him and another friend, Lisa, brainstorm for an idea, but I was too busy to help write a script this year.

Fluidity - Bisexual Shorts

Continuing with the shorts theme, this was a collection of bisexual short films. My favorite involved a tea/coffee metaphor for being lesbian/straight. There was a stoner flick in this set, too.

Tomboy (IMDb link) (Netflix link)

Perhaps my favorite film of the fest was this French gem from Céline Sciamma. In this film, a young tomboy named Laure moves into a new neighborhood, and when she is initially mistaken for a boy, she runs with it for as long as she can. Obviously things can't go on like that forever, but between then and the end, Laure finds a way to live life uninhibited. Malonn Lévana, the very young actress that played Laure's younger sister, Jeanne, totally stole the show whenever she was featured. Definitely a must see!

Films: Girl Scouting

This was another series of lesbian short films. I can't remember any that particularly stood out as being good. There was definitely a stoner flick in there somewhere.


This was another one that looked good from the description, but turned out to not be that great. There were a few funny scenes, but nothing to make up for the rest of the film. This one was sort of a coming out story set in 1982...that mixed in some of the serious side of being gay with a lot of curious humor. The scene of three guys masturbating in bed while watching porn was pretty interesting. I thought this might be a "Brokeback Mountain" set in the 80's college scene, but it was far from that.

Orchids: My Intersex Adventure (website)

When I first saw the description for this movie, I had really high hopes. I even picked this one over an LGBT sports related film. The documentary was good, but not quite what I expected. I don't really know many intersex people, so I wanted to see this film to hear their stories.

In this documentary, two sisters born with AIS travel around Australia talking with other IS people. While their visits with other IS people showed a more varied picture of being IS, the story of the two sisters was more compelling, especially with their parents involved. It turned out to be a pretty good flick, but probably needed a little more content and a little more editing to refine it into a great film.

Films: Fun in Girls Shorts

This was a series of lesbian short films, with one definitely worth watching. As a bunch of women sit around playing cards, one gets a call that a family member has passed away. She's cautious about returning because she hasn't been back since..."you came out as a lesbian" says one of the other women. The main woman finishes with, "since I was a man." I was hooked.

All of the women were played by cisgender women, but it was an interesting film depicting how it is as a trans woman coming out to a lesbian partner. I've found that even though lesbian women have gone through their own journey, not all of them are OK with the journey that a trans woman takes.


Gun Hill Road (IMDb link)(Netflix link)

Esai Morales stars as the ex-con just released from prison. He returns home to his family only to find that things are changing. His son is gradually becoming more feminine and he believes his wife is cheating on him. He starts out doing things by the book, but gradually loses it as he deals with all of his hurdles, including his own pent up secret. Harmony Santana does a fantastic job as Michael/Vanessa in a story that brings out many facets of being a transgender youth. There are a few slow periods in the movie, and there probably could have been a little more interaction with Vanessa and her boyfriend, but overall I enjoyed this high quality film.

Summary: Hmmm...looking back over my list, I sure did see a lot of short films. They almost start to run together, but I typically remember the good ones. Most of the others tend to fall to the wayside.