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An Overview Of Modern Queer Cinema

Anyone who can remember watching Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy and desperately hoping for a gay scene is probably resting quite easy right now in the eve of the 31st annual San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival. Continuing in its 31st year as the largest and oldest festival of its kind in the world, Frameline31 promises unprecedented access to the always dynamic, intelligent and edgy views of the best LGBT films today.

Of the 232 films scheduled to be screened over the next 11 days (June 14 - June 24), 11 of them are world premieres, 77 are feature length, 41 are made by local filmmakers and all of them come from a total of 25 different countries. The impact of the LGBT film community is truly now a global enterprise. It all amounts to a wide range of subject matter whose diversity should appeal to the diversity of its core audience.

There are films on AIDS/HIV, aging, films about ethnic minorities and subsets, sports, religion, marriage and music. There is an overwhelming variety of films on tap to be screened at various venues that include the Castro Theatre, Roxie Film Center, Victoria Theatre and Parkway Theatre. The number may seem intimidating, but what follows are just a few highlights by way of interest, buzz and relevance.

Certainly one of this year’s highlights is the marquee appearance of Alan Cumming at the West Coast premiere of his directorial debut, Suffering Man’s Charity. In this film, he stars as an aging composer with a weakness for younger men, and when the temptation to help a troubled novelist played by "Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s" David Boreanaz comes along, he disgracefully gives in. The performances of both leads are fierce and refined, especially that of Cumming, from whom we have come to expect chameleon like nuance that is at once comedic and heartbreaking. In addition, the film boasts a host of well known costars and cameos such as Anne Heche and Carrie Fisher.

Suffering Man’s Charity is but only one of Cummings contributions to the festival. He also features in the world premiere documentary, Motherfucker: A Movie, which chronicles the infamous New York club scene of the 90s and its seminal influence on the queer and tranny landscape of the time. Cumming also voices Chuck in the Logo animated series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In The World, which has its world premiere at Frameline31.

Israeli director Eytan Fox presents the North American premiere of his new film The Bubble, a modern day rendering of the classic Romeo & Juliet theme. Sexy, modern, and politically charged, The Bubble plays out the love affair of Noam and Ashraf. One is an out Israeli working in a record-store and the other a Palestinian party go-er. In the face of their disparate backgrounds, their affair runs the gamut of liberal acceptance and modern love to the bubble-bursting punch of reality and historical conflict. Tel Aviv would appear the perfect backdrop for a story about unrequited and impossible love.

Of course, the best stories always present the greatest difficulties for its protagonists to overcome. André Téchiné’s The Witnesses places its characters in Paris 1984, right before the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic. In this film, the four principles must not only overcome the divergence of hope and despair but they must do so by tackling relationships, disease and heartbreak. The struggles that The Witnesses allow us to see ultimately define the stories of life that Téchiné attempts to convey.

It’s not always about drama though. Many of the films presented at this year’s festival are comedies. One of them, Nina’s Heavenly Delights is directed by a former Frameline Award recipient Pratibha Parmar. Nina’s Heavenly Delights is Parmar’s first narrative feature film after directing several successful documentaries. The film is a romantic comedy about a closeted lesbian returning home to try to save her family’s restaurant by winning a curry cook-off on a local Indian television program. It’s a winning recipe of comedy, musical numbers and family values.

One of the more talked about documentaries in this year’s program is Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. Featuring interviews from Arquettes David and Patricia, this documentary chronicles Alexis’ experiences leading up to and as a result of her sex change surgery. What plays out on screen is more than just the struggle of gender identity, it’s the often complicated and sordid spotlight of celebrity. This documentary by filmmakers Matthew Barbato and Nikki Parrott presents an intriguing glimpse into one of Hollywood’s most prolicif families. Alexis Arquette is on the schedule as a guest at this particular screening.

Eleven days is an awfully short time in which to screen over 230 films, so Frameline organizers have developed various programs designed to display film shorts, of which this year there are more than 150. Each progam runs with its own theme, and they range from the gay/straight dynamics of male buddies in “Best Mates,” films about bisexuals by bisexual directors, to the self explanatory “Dyke Delights” and the mysteries of “Gay Noir,” fitting for a city with such rich Film Noir and gay histories.

The depth of this year’s programming at Frameline31 is a testament not only to the ingenuity of today’s filmmakers and actors, but it speaks volumes about the international community of audiences for which these films have been ostensibly produced. There is a commitment to showcasing different films from different nations and interests because LGBT cinema has always been about creating an outlet for investigation. Where there is life, there will be interest. This year’s festival offereings, from opening through closing night, promises inclusion for all.

For more information, please visit www.frameline.org