7 Films to Watch at Frameline 38

Frameline is always my most anticipated film festival in the city. From a pretty strong lineup, here I picked some films that I would like to see (after skimming the synopses) and let’s see how they turn out.

Honorable Mention

Documentaries: Frameline 38 opens with The Case Against 8, a close look at the monumental victory in LGBT right history when Supreme court overturned california Proposition 8 last summer. There are several interesting period films: Out in East Berlin — Lesbians & Gays in the GDR records thirteen East Berlin queer voices to recreate the picture of people living behind Iron Curtain and their search of identity and love; The Circle is an incredible docudrama about Zurich’s ground breaking gay magazine Der Kreis in the 1950s; Mondo Homo: A Study of French Gay Porn in the 70’s is another fascinating documentary that looks back into history and brings its viewers to the raw, rough, sweaty era of porn. In the light of Google’s Pride theme #ProudToPlay, I’m also interested in Back on Board: Greg Louganis, a film about HIV-positive four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, and Out in the Line-Up: Uncovering the Taboo of Homosexuality in Surfing, which simply looks pretty hot. Also, Star Trek legend George Takei is featured in documentary centerpiece To Be Takei, expect it to be a big hit.

Narratives: Driven by a powerhouse performance from its beautiful actress, Finnish film Open Up to Me examines the social complexity in transgender people’s relationships and their endeavor in the pursuit of happiness. The lusty tanned male bodies in Futuro Beach remind me of the Latino hit last year The Last Game, and make an arousing scene with sheer masculinity. Eat with Me pairs a son from a traditional Asian family with a young handsome blonde guy, and bears quite some resemblance to this year’s centerpiece Lilting in setting the film in the perspective of a gay son’s mom. Sundance’s craziest, most outrageous movie Wetlands, exploring the delicate female body with vegetables, riotous fun and unabashed obscenity, might be the kinkiest of Frameline, but it also goes beyond human bodies to study emotions and relationships. Finally, Bad Hair and Salvation Army are two movies from countries much less prolific in cinema, Venezuela and Morocco, that I missed in this year’s SFIFF, hopefully I can make up this time.

Frameline: Films Bring Us Together.

 

Here are the seven films that I pick.

7. Anita’s Last Cha-Cha (Thursday June 26, 6:45pm, Castro)
Films are not meant to be just about adults, they should be about everyone, anyone. So let’s start the list with something we don’t usually see in LGBT cinema: a 12-year-old tomboy falling in love with a grown-up woman. Too many times kids are told by adults that their feelings aren’t real and they will soon get over them, but what if those feelings are real and they are just so hard to get over? Fortunately, this film isn’t one of those adults, it treats Anita’s love as seriously and tenderly as any other films treat adults’.

6. Five Dances (Friday June 20, 7:00pm, Victoria)
Last year’s dance-themed Frameline hit Test is pretty good, especially the beautiful choreography and incredibly inviting scores. Five Dances doesn’t seem to garner the same positive responses from early critiques, and it has a completely different backdrop set in modern day NYC; but let’s give it a chance. I recently find dancing (films) quite compelling because it incorporates both visual arts and performing arts, and would like to see more.

5. Violette (Monday June 23, 9:15pm, Castro)
This biopic of tormented French writer Violette Leduc is a compelling depiction of her life of writing without recognition and her desperate yet unreturned love to her friend and mentor, the famous feminist Simone de Beauvoir. Playing the title role, Cesar award winner Emmanuelle Devos is one of the biggest stars in this year’s lineup and I like her very much.

4. Floating Skyscrapers (Saturday June 21, 9:30pm, Victoria; Thursday June 26th, 9:30pm, Roxie.)
There is a very thin line between graphic sexual scenes and soft porn. Last year the French wowed LGBT cinema by dancing deftly on that line with two completely different yet both audacious and beautiful works Blue is the Warmest Color and Stranger by the Lake. Now it’s the Poles’ turn and given their great effort in In the name of, I am curious how they deal with a more sexually charged gay relationship. Even if it only comes close to any of the above three films, I’ll be satisfied.

3. 52 Tuesdays (Tuesday June 24, 7:00pm, Victoria)
Shoot in 52 consecutive Tuesdays and in chronological order of the story, 52 Tuesdays put our eyes on a sixteen-year-old girl coping with independence and her complicated teen life when her mother decides to take on a gender transition. This remarkable movie possesses the diversity that LGBT cinema much needs, and its groundbreaking work in filmmaking made it win big at both Berlin and Sundance.

2. The Way He Looks (Monday June 23, 6:30pm, Castro)
Coming of age and coming out are two of my favorite film themes, and when they come together, they often deliver a even stronger emotional punch. What is adulthood? What is best buddy? What are love and being loved? Exploring the desire and dismay of growing up, this year’s Berlinale Teddy Award winner is “warm, funny, and remarkably well acted — and one of the best film about boys in love since Beautiful Thing“.

1. Lilting (Wednesday June 25, 6:30pm, Castro)
This year’s narrative centerpiece features a very fascinating pair of costars Ben Whishaw and Cheng Pei-pei. Between the gentle, charming rising star from Cloud Atlas, and one of Hong Kong’s most prominent swordswomen on big screen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), there will be some rare and flaring sparks awaiting us. I don’t see Lilting as just a gay movie, I see it as a touching, multi-culture, cross-generational story whose characters happen to be gay, and that’s why I think I’m gonna really like it.

Check Me Out at DocFest and Frameline

I am going to do some crazy volunteering work for DocFest and Frameline, two of my favorite film festivals in the city, presented by amazing non-profit organizations that support independent documentary filmmaking and LGBT cinema. If you believe in what I believe, check out their wonderful films! If you believe in what I believe, check out their wonderful films! Or check out me, in this gorgeous pink Frameline volunteer t-shirt. Unfortunately I can’t get you a free ticket but I will definitely give you a HUGE hug.

Can’t resist volunteering even just for this T-shirt.

 
Here are my shifts. Besides, I’ll for sure go to some other DocFest screenings and I’ll be at Frameline everyday (except Pride Parade Sunday), so if you are interested in any films, let me know, maybe we can go together!

DocFest
June 08, Sunday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
Bronx Obama / One Good Year / Back Issues / Love Me
June 10, Tuesday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
No More Road Trips? / Magical Universe / Back Issues / We Always Lie to Strangers
June 14, Saturday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
When My Sorrow Died / Doc of the Dead / Glena / Led Zeppelin Played Here
June 15, Sunday, 12:00pm-11:00pm @ Fox Theater, Oakland
Of Kites and Borders / Urban Fruit / Ivory Tower / Internets Own Boy / Back Issues

Frameline
June 23, Monday, 8:30pm-11:30pm @ Castro Theater
Violette
June 24, Tuesday, 6:00pm-9:00pm @ Victoria Theater
52 Tuesdays
June 28, Saturday, 12:30pm-6:00pm @ Victoria Theater
20 Lies, 4 Parents and A Little Egg / My Straight Son
June 28, Saturday, 8:00pm – 11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
Wetlands

7 Things I Learned from My First Bay to Breaker

Just went to my first Bay to Breaker and it was a BLAST! So glad I made it, especially after almost giving up the day before. Here are the 7 things I learned from this very first Bay to Breaker experience.

1. It’s OK to crash it. While the event officials said that unregistered runners will be kicked off the course, there are several reasons they won’t or even can’t enforce this policy. First, The sidewalks are open to public, so you could well pretend that you happen to be in the mood of walking from Embarcadero to Ocean beach on a beautiful Sunday morning in weird costume. Second, number tags are hard to see under fancy costumes anyway, no cop will ever bother stopping a man only to realize his tag is inside the funny looking banana skin. 3. Everyone crashes it. Yeah, that’s sadly true, but crashing Bay to Breaker is not recommended here; If you can afford it, pay the registration fee to support organizing such a wonderful event.

2. Wear costume or stay at home. I didn’t wear costume this year, and felt so embarrassed and shameful. Wearing plain blue hoodie and black running shorts, I looked like an idiot walking among wild animals, superheros, Tetris and dressed-up good-looking European sailors. The flashy green accent on my shoes and shorts may make me not as dumb as people who came in their super-casual grocery shopping attires, but still, this will be the last time I come to Bay to Breaker without a proper costume.

3. Walk, not run. My friend who wished to spectate the event drove in from south bay around 9 a.m. and thought she would miss the better part of the race. It turned out that she not only joined a great portion of it, but also received a finisher’s medal, only that the race is not a real “race” — it’s just a long stroll. There are way too many things at Bay to Breaker to just run by: hot chicks in bikinis, old flabby naked man, cops that hard to tell whether in uniforms or costumes, music stations on Hayes, people watchers on the roofs, drunkies in the Panhandle, bisons in the Golden Gate Park, whirling wind on the Ocean Beach. Bay to Breaker is a kaleidoscope of color, joy, exuberance that makes San Francisco San Francisco, so walk it and walk slowly. (However, to get a finisher’s medal, you do need to finish this year’s 12K before 12:30 p.m.)

Too many things to see at Bay to Breaker that I lost focus.

 
4. The more, the merrier. Bay to Breaker is a party for social animals, not for loners. Your happiness and excitement grow exponentially in the number of buddies coming with you. If Batman comes alone, well, that’s sort of cool, but Batman vs. Spiderman is way cooler. How about them with all the avengers? Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk…WOW!

5. No alcohol, no asshole. The first half means there is no tolerance for drinking along the entire course, which is pretty easy to understand. This year curb-side drinking is reduced though not completely eliminated by several new practices including the closure of Alamo Square, which makes the event both less exciting and much safer. The second half is fairly literal too. I do admire minimalism, but “nothing” is definitely not the best thing to wear at Bay to Breaker. Well, this doesn’t apply to hot sixpack guys.

6. 12K is longer than you think.I usually run 5 miles a time during my half marathon training without feeling too exhausted at the end, but yesterday I spent more than three hours on this 12K course and it felt like even longer. In fact, San Francisco is a city with an area of 7 miles by 7 miles, so walking across it sounds pretty easy. Yet anyone who thinks so forgets that San Francisco is dense, hilly, beautiful and Bay to Breaker is not just a 12K race. It’s a culture experience, a city party, a chance to be immersed in the liveliness of this city, a process to create and nourish the course, rather than merely running it.

7. San Francisco is an amazing city. I’ve walked in many streets in different neighborhoods of San Francisco. California Street is my favorite hilly route, with its wide, straight, steep road pointing to the sky and cable cars cutting through from the peak; yet Hayes Street completely grabbed my heart yesterday. In the most iconic Bay to Breaker viewpoint, the gentle slope in Hayes valley is guarded by two rows of magnificent Victorian houses, the two lane street between them filled with clamor and crowd all the way from the bottom of the hill to the top. It’s a scene that everyone sees wants to be a part of, however small that part is. It made me proud, it made me alive.