June 18, 2008

Gay and Lesbian Film Fest Has Several Bay Area Connections

By Randy Myers, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Jun. 18--A Concord man emotionally recounts how he felt when his son became his daughter.

A former Albany woman digs through numerous photos and letters while trying to figure out if her great-grandmother had a lesbian lover.

A Hayward teen passionately speaks in verse about race, politics and other hot-button topics in lively spoken-word competitions.

These three will share their remarkable stories in films shown at Frameline32, the San Francisco International Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival.

The 237-feature festival kicks off Thursday with a grand opening at the Castro, and runs through June 29.

Here are minireviews of some notable features and shorts.

Don't miss:

"XXY": Argentina's recent emergence as a major cinematic player gains even more cred with first-time director Lucia Puenzo's searing drama about a 15-year-old hermaphrodite. A confused yet strong-willed Alex (Ines Efron) lives in fear that her dual sexuality will be exposed. When she fools around with a 16-year-old boy, also struggling with his sexuality, all sorts of emotions explode. Puenzo's bold film provocatively and intelligently delves into a topic rarely touched on film. Easily one of the best in the fest.

Screens: 7 p.m. June 24 at the Castro

"A Jihad for Love": Director Parvez Sharma's unsettling, powerful documentary peers into the struggles and physical violence some

gay Muslims are confronting in various countries. The stories told here reveal a courageousness that will leave you awe-struck.

Screens: 6 p.m. June 28 at the Victoria

"Chris & Don: A Love Story": The May-December romance of iconoclastic author Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Barchardy -- 30 years his junior -- vividly comes to life in this lovely, enriching documentary. Co-directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara create complex, full-bloodied portraits of both men through archival video, family photos and telling interviews. Worthy of Oscar consideration.

Screens: 9 p.m. June 27 at the Victoria

Worth seeing

"Ready, OK?": Ten-year-old Joshua (Lurie Poston) tirelessly dreams about "girlie" pursuits such as being on the cheerleading squad. His less masculine ways fluster his A-type mom along with his Catholic school's mother superior. Director James Vasquez's gentle and pleasant comedy-drama could have used a bit more sass; but the likeable Poston and the film's heartfelt sincerity win you over.

Screens: 7 p.m. June 24 at the Victoria; 7 p.m. June 26 at the Elmwood

"Tru Loved": Tru, the new girl at a snotty SoCal high school, catches the affection of the cutie-pie quarterback. But the budding romance seems a little queer to her lesbian mom. Frothy, sweet-natured and charming, this teen coming-out and being-true-to yourself crowd-pleaser suffers from a strained finale, but well worth seeing, especially for Najarra Townsend's appealing performance as Tru.

Screens: 4 p.m. June 21 at the Castro; noon June 25 at the Castro

A disappointment

"Affinity": This botched adaptation of Sarah Waters' clever Victorian England-set novel should have -- could have -- been so much better. Two women -- one sentenced to Millbank Prison, the other chained to her repression -- develop a consuming attraction to each other. The intriguing plot and sharp screenplay are quite good; it's the melodramatic direction and lackluster acting that can't keep up.

East Bay connections:

"2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry": Low-tech, commendable documentary profiles teen spoken-word performers in the Bay Area. As you'd expect, it catches fire whenever the five teen poets -- including one from Hayward -- hit the stage to show off their amazing talents. "Verse" gains more depth whenever the camera focuses on Yosimar Reyes of San Jose. His words -- and life as an undocumented immigrant -- will render you speechless.

Screens: 6 p.m. June 20 at the Roxie

"The Bond": A Concord man emotionally recalls how he felt about his son's decision to become a woman. In just six minutes, Michael Connell conveys not only love for his daughter, but grief over having lost a son. Filled with hope and compassion; be ready for a good cry.

Screens: As part of "Trantastic," 6:15 p.m. June 22, the Victoria

"Just Me?": Former Albany resident Amy Neil pieces together the background of her great-grandmother's close relationship with another woman. Neil's 22-minute short is laced with humor and humanity. Seek it out.

Screens: As part of "A Gay Old Time," 4:30 p.m. June 25 at the Castro

Reach Randy Myers at [email protected]

film festival -- WHAT: Frameline 32: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival -- WHEN: June 19-29 -- WHERE: Various venues include: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave., Berkeley; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.; Roxie Film Center, 3117 16th St., S.F.; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F. -- TICKETS: $7-$10 per screening (more for opening and closing nights); www.Frameline.org, 415-522-5543 (fax) or at Superstar Satellite, 474 Castro St., S.F. online To see trailers of the films, go to ContraCostaTimes.com

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