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The 28th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Go out, go out, wherever you are

The San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival continues its strong annual tradition of bringing the best of queer cinema to large audiences across the Bay Area. Now in its 28th year, the festival runs 11 days from June 17-27, screening 267 films (60 by local filmmakers) from 25 countries. Dubbed Frameline28, this unique festival showcases many films you simply will not see anywhere else, even in our local art houses, unless they're lucky and find a distributor.

Go out, come out, and see some challenging, giddy, amazing queer cinema. From sexual romps and porn to documentaries, comedies, and thrillers, you'll find something of interest at this year's festival. The following list is by no means complete; it merely attempts to highlight some of the festival's offerings that caught our eye.

April's Shower
US director Trish Doolan's romantic comedy revolves around the unpredictable chemistry that erupts among family and friends at a wedding shower that Alex reluctantly throws in her home for former best friend (and secret lover) April, who's marring a nice enough guy but perhaps not the love of her life. This brightly lit, softly focused film seems stagy at first but features enough witty repartee and engaging characters with buried passions to make the hijinks rather enjoyable by the end. A great, unpretentious date movie for folks of all sexual persuasions. (S.G.)

Brother to Brother
Interweaving the 1920s Harlem Renaissance with the present, Brother to Brother pays tribute to overlooked poet Bruce Nugent while providing commentary on a group victimized by a dual dose of prejudice: gay blacks. Perry is a young, gay black male struggling for an identity until he befriends Nugent, a visitor at the homeless shelter where he volunteers. At times this film becomes melodramatic over the idea of remaining true to art and strays away from the central issues of the story. However, it still provides an interesting insight into the fine line that artists straddle between independence and mainstream viability. (H.H)

Clara's Summer
This coming-of-age film about a girl's pivotal experience at summer camp shows just how awkward hormonally driven teenagers are with sex, even in France. In Patrick Grandperret's mature drama, the alien, aggressive nature of boys intrudes upon the safe bond between Clara and Zoe. Initially shrugging off Zoe's advances, Clara finds herself losing out to fellow camper Sebastian for Zoe's virgin affection. As the summer progresses, Clara realizes that love can express itself in unexpected places and from unforeseen directions. Truly a memorable movie, right up to the end. (S.G.)

Go Fish
While most material of the romantic comedy genre concentrates on the "magic" that mystically takes place between two beautiful people upon first meeting, Go Fish deals with the issues that befall real relationships. At the heart, there's the endearing story of the quixotic Max learning to look past her fairy-tale notions of romance to recognize love in its unexpected form. Underneath, though, it adds a level of depth by weaving in a discussion of the variety of identity issues that the lesbian community deals with. A decade ago, US director Rose Troche made her directorial debut with this charming romantic comedy. Yet even today, movies in the genre haven't caught up. (H.H)

Inescapable
Helen Lesnick's high-tension lesbian erotic drama from the US sexes up a somewhat ordinary story of infidelity with startling naked passion that leaves little to the imagination. As best friends Beth and Susan plan a reunion weekend to attend a work-related seminar together, their respective lovers, Chloe and Jesse, find an opportunity to, shall we say, assuage their mutual feelings of alienation. Soon it's not a question of where they'll do it but how soon before their increasingly risky behavior exposes them. A date movie only for those in truly strong, committed relationships. (S.G.)

Laramie Inside Out
Beverly Seckinger's first-person documentary highlights the bravery of ordinary people living under a toxic cloud of homophobia. Visiting her hometown of Laramie, Wyoming, in the wake of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, Seckinger interviews people who live honestly and openly as gays and lesbians in America's heartland. From the middle-aged woman who finally comes out to her church to the imaginative citizens who dress as white angels to confront silently the vociferous rallies of religious hate-monger Fred Phelps, Laramie Inside Out proves you don't have to go to the east or west coast to fight the good fight. (S.G.)

Raspberry Reich
It's easy to see why this outrageous film by Canadian bad-boy director Bruce LaBruce made the biggest impression on the festival's organizers. Based loosely on the saga of the infamous Baader-Meinhof terrorist group in 1970s Berlin, and taking a cue from trashmeister John Waters, this skin flick from Germany takes radical chic to a whole new level of stridency, combining ludicrous revolutionary mantras ("Heterosexual monogamy is a bourgeois concept that must be smashed in order to achieve true revolution!") with unabashed porn in an unholy, but politically expedient, alliance as a gang of misfits kidnaps the cutie-pie son of a German industrialist and holds him as their sexual prisoner. From the dubbed dialog to the propagandistic messages that flash hypnotically on the screen, this low-budget adult adventure is sure to offend sensibilities. At least this experimental porn-cum-performance art knows when to make fun of itself and its wannabe heroes. (S.G.)

Sugar
Based on several short stories by Bruce LaBruce (him again!), this touching, bittersweet, well-acted film by Canadian director John Palmer follows eighteen-year-old Cliff from his boring suburban home to the gritty world of street hustlers and drug dealers as he tries to experience what life is really like outside the safety of his familiar hood. Dangerously naive, Cliff falls for trick Butch, even though the concept of love seems alien to both. While Cliff finds his bearings in this unpredictable landscape of trysts and trust amid shadows, hotel rooms, and limos, Butch runs pell-mell through it, endangering himself and his tagalong friend in the process. This disquieting film gives the hackneyed coming-of-age genre a refreshing sense of newness. (S.G.)

Touch of Pink
Opening the festival, Ian Iqbal Rashid's romantic comedy from Canada pertly sends up the old Hollywood milieu. A closeted Muslim man in London tries to keep his homosexuality a secret from his well-to-do family in Toronto amid the turmoil of his cousin's lavish Indian wedding. Hilarity ensues when his mum visits him and befriends his "roommate." As luck would have it, he is guided and occasionally becalmed throughout by the advice of an unexpected guru: the spirit of Cary Grant! (A remarkable impersonation by Kyle MacLachlan.) As you might expect, this film shows that the closet of the mind is often harder to open than the one in the real world. (S.G.)

Wild Side
French director Sebastien Lifshitz (Come Undone) has taken on a difficult task: telling the story of Stephanie, a transvestite prostitute involved in a love triangle with two male sex workers. At times, it seems to be a story about the difficulties inherent in their odd relationship and how they deal with the harsh realities of working the streets of Paris. But it shifts gears when Stephanie returns home to care for her ailing mother, which conjures up memories from her childhood. Through it all, Lifshitz uses a gentle hand to reveal each character and knows that allowing us to see the nuances of the unusual relationship is more insightful than utilizing sweeping generalities. At the finish, we're not any more certain about the relationship than we were at the beginning but it's intriguing the whole way. (H.H)


www.frameline.org/festival/28th