Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Lesbian films flower at Frameline


Lesbian plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (left) in Ben Cotner and Ryan White's The Case Against 8. Photo: Frameline
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Where are the dykes at this year's Frameline? Front-and-center opening night in Ben Cotner and Ryan White's The Case Against 8, a 109-minute documentary about that marriage thing some people are into. Legal minds will thrill to wannabe newlyweds Kris Perry and Sandy Stier's courtroom battles and media tussles, Thurs., June 19, at 7 p.m. Be there or be elsewhere.

At Frameline's well-buffeted press conference a month ago, erstwhile Frameline co-director Jenni Olsen asked her favorite question, "How many films will be shown on film [rather than DVD]?" The answer was and is, Two. Easy to guess they are the two Sapphic classics, comedy Go Fish (1994) and tragedy Boys Don't Cry (1999), dredged from the vaults to shame the current dearth at 11 a.m. matinees, June 25 & 26 respectively. I hope your boss understands.

Later on Thurs., June 26, at 3:30 p.m., a major accumulation of tribadistic talent will debate the ins-and-outs of feature filmmaking, moderated by director of Frameline programming Desiree Buford, who looks good in a tie. Admission is free to see her pry insights out of director/producer Rose Troche, writer/actress Guinevere Turner, writer/director Kimberly Peirce, and writer/director Desiree Akhavan about the age-old conundrums, which I paraphrase:

Why don't women who make short films go on to make features? Are the challenges systemic, institutional? Who has the funding capital and power to green-light projects? Which decision-makers drive film sales, acquisitions, distribution, and VOD? How do narrative and documentary challenges differ? Talk about disturbing trends in Hollywood film and television in terms of the lack of opportunities for women filmmakers. Talk about Goddesszilla.

Just for the record, 22 women directed features in this year's fest, against 53 men, and three transsomething. Shorts must be easier: 74 women vs. 80 men, still only four trans. And yet, there's plenty to look at for sisters still desperately seeking images of yourselves onscreen. All films at the Castro Theatre, unless otherwise noted.

Appropriate Behavior, an 82-minute feature completed with a Frameline grant, dramatizes its Iranian-American bisexual director Desiree Akhavan's coming-of-sexual-maturity, Fri., June 27, at 7 p.m.

Hinaleimoana Wong Kalu (right) in Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson's documentary Kumu Hina.
Photo: Frameline

Kumu Hina, a 77-minute documentary by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, also a Frameline grantee, paints a bittersweet portrait of what we might call an MTF, based on her monthly estrogen shots. Hinaleimoana herself, however, identifies as a mahu, or traditional Hawai'ian hermaphrodite. Her mini-me is a chubby-cheeked tomboy she's teaching to dance hula. Butches will relate, Sun., June 22, at 3:30 p.m.

Out in the Night, a 75-minute doc, another Frameline recipient, follows the fortunes of seven African-American lesbians branded a "Gang of Killer Lesbians" by the tabloids. Many of us have dreamt of such things! But of course, having to deal with cops and courts is never the fun you hope. Director Blair Doroshwalther sets the record queer on The New Jersey 4, Sat., June 28, at 1:30 p.m.

The Foxy Merkins, an 82-minute comedy by my playwright pal Madeleine Olnek, promising the festival's slyest laughs, comes to Frameline via Sundance. Not bad, Madeleine! I don't think you'll regret staying up late on Sun., June 22, 9:15 p.m.

Around the Block, a nice juicy 104-minute feature, stars Christina Ricci for some Hollywood tingle, as a teacher working in inner-city Sydney. This might not actually be lesbionic content, but you still might be a contented lesbian watching a severely styled Ricci among the Aboriginees, Tues., June 24, 9:30 p.m.

Monika Treut is a Teutonic goddess still to be reckoned with, returning with Von Madchen un Pferden (Of Girls and Horses), although I'd personally prefer Madchen on Horseback, Fri., June 27, 9:15 p.m., at the Roxie.

In Regarding Susan Sontag, the intellectual darling is analyzed for 100 minutes by director Nancy Kates, Wed., June 25, at 7 p.m., at the Victoria.

Emmanuelle Devos plays Violette Leduc in director Martin Provost's Violette. Photo: Frameline

Violette, be still my heart. My favorite not-classically-beautiful French actress, Emmanuelle Devos, known for her gutsy, quirky charisma, plays France's most celebrated self-loathing lesbian. Violette Leduc was a writer who cleverly infiltrated the inner circle of Simone de Beauvoir, but alas, fell madly in love with the legendary same-sex tease. Violette is best known for her autobiography La Batarde (The Bastard), which you might find yourself reading if you go see this, Mon., June 23, at 9:15 p.m.

Violette Leduc: In Pursuit of Love , a 57-minute documentary by Esther Hoffenberg, provides intellectual and cultural context for the psychosexual flame-throwing of Martin Provost's Violette. Where Americans see "mental illness," Europeans often recognize genius. Even the French have trouble with lesbians, though, and Violette, to her glory, was pretty impossible. In a good way. Is it madness, or is it lesbianism? See for yourself at another one of those damnable 11 a.m. matinees, Tues., June 24.


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