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Frameline Film Festival: Top Documentaries (Thus Far) Offer Diversity & Pride

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Frameline 38 continues to shape up to be the best year ever. The film festival runs June 19-29 at select Bay Area Theatres.

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While a lot of the documentary films were not available to prescreen, here are some standouts - in order of preference.

1. FOLSOM FOREVER. What could have been a titillating curio piece about fetish and leather actually has a lot of depth and facts and shows how the Folsom Street Fair also helped the community in early times when AIDS first reared its ugly head and scared off customers to the local bars and area clubs. Director Mike Skiff is a name and a talent that we need to keep our eye on. His movie is full of fascinating details and told in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening.

2. OUT IN THE NIGHT. This shocking documentary on what the newspapers called the New Jersey 4 all stems from women trying to stop the sexual advances of a man by telling him that they're lesbians. Most men would have moved on, but the man in question instead threw slurs at the women who in the media were branded as the aggressors and labeled a "Gang of Killer Lesbians!" The movie shows evidence that would support their defense, but instead the outcome seems more like a plot of "The Good Wife." But far from a TV drama, this one moment in time has changed these women's lives forever.

3. LIMITED PARTNERSHIP. The beautiful story of Richard and Tony would have been a Disney fairy tale if the two men were not a same-sex couple. The YEARS the two spent trying to get the government to recognize their union (and to stop Tony from being deported) shows how nothing is stronger than the power of love - even when the INS writes back to you and calls you "faggots."

4. MONDO HOMO: A STUDY OF GAY FRENCH FILM IN THE 70s. Sexy, sexual and oftentimes very explicit, this film shows the progression of pornography as it builds from softcore to fetish. An interesting history lesson told by many men who are still around to clue us in. For people into history, the filmmakers uncovered a lot of early scenes from film archives and certainly is a great way to see some of the roots of pornography, much of which crossed over to the United States.

5. BACK ON BOARD: GREG LOUGANIS. I had very little interest in seeing this movie because I thought I knew all there is to know about gay Olympic Diver Greg Louganis. I was so wrong. "Back on Board" not only reviews his life as a diver from an early age, but it also spends a lot of time telling of his struggles in keeping in the closet - not just from people involved in the Olympics but his school mates that already shunned him from being different. But the movie doesn't stop at Louganis' past - it also shows us his present day struggles and reminds us that no matter how famous someone can be, in the end fame may only last 15 minutes and leaving a good and happy life and being proud of the person you are is a forever commitment.

6. KIDNAPPED FOR CHRIST. A powerful movie about young people being sent to the Dominican Republic to work out their issues that are too much for their parents to handle, opens the door to a world of child abuse, brain washing and people trying to "straighten" out the young.

7. OUT IN EAST BERLIN: LESBIANS & GAYS IN GDR. This movie reminds us of what we sometimes take for granted in San Francisco: our freedom. "Out" intercuts several 50-something gay men and lesbians as they share their stories of growing up gay behind the Berlin wall. While they could have lead of double lives so that they can maintain a hassle-free life, but instead, most were pioneers of gay rights in Germany sacrificinh their careers in order to help pave the way for generations to come. All of their stores are engrossing and memorable.

8. LADY VALOR: THE KRISTIN BECK STORY. This movie likely hit home in so many ways that it was very emotional for me to watch. While I have never considered changing my sex, the movie still reminds us how people can turn to hate simply by learning facts about a person (that shouldn't effect their relationship at all) and then how people can fight against something that is different. Former Navy SEAL Beck had as much a battle transforming from Christopher to Kristen as she did in the Navy. Beck though seems to be able to handle any storm as she faces hate and prejudice but manages to overcome it all, while become a role model for more people than she is probably aware of.

9. ALEC MAPA: BABY DADDY. Technically, this movie isn't really a documentary unless we count the five minutes Mapa spends at home with his husband and child. While that's all well and good, much like the Margaret Cho movie a couple of years ago, this needs to be seen as it mostly Mapa's stand-up comedy routine which is HILARIOUS!!! He does not only a great job adding bits to his act that reflect his being a new father, but he does the funniest sketch in which Bette Davis sings Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A."

There are likely many other documentaries that are on par with these selections but I haven't seen them yet. For full details and theatres and all movies, go to www.frameline.org.

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