The 38th annual Frameline GLBT Film Festival starts June 19 and from the movies I've been already seen, we're in for an informative, political and fun and festival with appeal to everyone - including mainstream audiences.
Many movies were not available for me to see in advance, so obviously they aren't included here. But I did want to point out my top picks in narrative features for this year's festivals. In the near 50 movies that I've screened, here are the best. Kind of a Top Ten Work-in-Progress (tomorrow I will do documentaries).
1. LILTING. This is one of the festival's Centerpieces and it's easy to see why. It deals with a Chinese mother coping with the loss of her son who never told her he was gay. It isn't the downer as you might think as it shows her growing relationship with her son's "friend" and how he tries to help the mother overcome a language barrier with an admirer of her own.
2. EAT WITH ME. Also with an Asian influence, "Eat" has a middle aged mother who moves in with her gay son after her husband suddenly wakes up one night and says that his wedding ring is giving him a headache. The mother learns a lot about her son's lifestyle and develops an understanding thanks to the cool neighbor next door. Bonus! The movie also is good for fans of food films as one of the best supporting performances in the film belongs to the cuisine.
3. APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR. Director/writer/actor Desiree Akhavan puts together a film that has so many layers that she instantly puts herself in an elite list of young filmmakers to watch. Her character proves to be anything by appropriate as she says whatever is on her mind except telling her Iranian family about her bisexuality. She does manages to tell it like it is to friends and coworkers including helping a young group of children make a movie about farts...all while we learn of her last failed relationship through flashback scenes that apparently have kept her from moving on.
4. MY STRAIGHT SON. A touching, sweet and very emotional drama, "Son" has an out Venezuelan successful gay photographer who must take care of his teen son for a period. The son has a big chip on his shoulder as he wonders why his father hasn't stayed in touch. Before you think "Kramer vs. Kramer" the parents are still on good term and there's a subplot dealing with hate crimes that has an extra edge to the already engrossing film.
5. TRU LOVE. One of the few exceptional lesbian-oriented films I've screened this year, Tru is a commitment-phobic lesbian who starts up a wonderful friendship with her best friend's mother. Tru surprises herself with the depth of feelings she develops for the mother - maybe because her friend's mother isn't trying to force Tru to make a commitment or perhaps it's just because it comes as a welcome surprise - much like the endearing and beautiful quality of this Canadian picture.
6. BOY MEETS GIRL. The title really says it all - but the boy is actually a pre-op transgender woman who falls for the town's former football hero's fiancee. Tough enough in any environment but set it in a small town in Kentucky and you have edges and situations that are a bit tougher in a more metropolitan city. Film is good no matter what but is elevated to a higher level thanks to the star making performance of Michelle Hendley, who equally mixes humor, style and charm into one hell of a performance.
7. I FEEL LIKE DISCO. A German entry that isn't as light hearted as it sounds - and perhaps is one of the few movies that might have bear appeal thanks to larger men in the movie. Story has a shy chubby young man who has a beautiful bond with his understanding mother but is faced with trying to forge an understanding with his macho dad when the mother takes ill.
8. FLOATING SKYSCRAPERS. This movie is definitely worth seeing if not only because there are very few gay movies that come out of Poland, but it really shows a man torn about his feelings. While he lives a "straight" life, he does have meaningless gay sex just to satisfy his sexual appetite. But he is conflicted when he meets someone he likes for more than just sex. The movie also has some great sports training scenes that add a interesting layer to the story.
9. CUPCAKES. Easily the feel good movie of the festival, this Israel comedy has a musical group formed of six friends who decide they have as much talent as everyone else on those singing competition shows, so why don't they become contestants. As fun as "Strictly Ballroom" and kind of a cousin to "Pitch Perfect," the movie is a surprising change of pace for director Eytan Fox, who has had more seriously films ("Yossi & Jagger") in other festivals.
10. FIVE DANCES. For lovers of dance, this is definitely the movie to see and it would make a great companion piece to last year's "Test." While "Dances" leaves a lot left unsaid and doesn't deal with deeper issues as in "Test," it still shows a great love for dance while dealing with a story a young Midwestern boy who comes to New York to be a dancer and learns more about himself in the process.
Other movies worth noting include "Futuro Beach" which shows a great love that develops out of tragedy, "What It Was" about a young film star who comes home on a break and has flashbacks of her earlier life (with drop dead gorgeous Arlene Chico-Lugo as the lead) and "Dyke Central," a collection of webisodes that continue the tales of a group of young women and their exploits, highlighting many good and bad parts of Oakland.
Frameline 38 plays June 19-29 at various theatres in the Bay Area. To review the complete schedule and all the options, go to www.frameline.org.