'All Kinds of Queer' — What to See at Frameline 2021

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 10, 2021

'All Kinds of Queer' — What to See at Frameline 2021

Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, will have its most ambitious year with 17 days of hybrid virtual and in-person offerings, from June 10-27, 2021, which will include four drive-in screenings, two screenings at Oracle Park in partnership with San Francisco Pride and the San Francisco Giants, as well as over 50 virtual film screenings. In addition, in-person screenings return to Frameline with a series of special screenings at San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre and Roxy Theater.

This year's theme is "All Kinds of Queer," and the lineup reflects 20 countries.

Pride Movie Night at Oracle Park will include a screening of the buoyant and terrific new musical, "In the Heights" (see my review here: https://www.edgemedianetwork.com/news.php?ch=entertainment&sc=movies&id=304824&review:_in_the_heights_is_rousing,_pulse-pounding_and_hypnotic ) and the fab Brit musical, "Everybody's Talking About Jamie."

Tickets ($8-$12 per screening) and passes (starting at $95) are available now at at the Framline website. The festival will offer a Festival Streaming Pass allowing ticket holders the chance to enjoy all virtual festival content. And patrons will also be able to tune in live or stream almost every film starting June 17, 2021.

"We are beyond thrilled to present the world's largest LGBTQ+ film festival," says Frameline executive director James Woolley. "We look forward to celebrating the power of queer storytelling and sharing in a collective experience together."

Below are my recommended feature narrative and documentary picks based on a sampling of the films selected.

Narrative Features:

Narrative Features:

"Firebird"

Peeter Rebane's hypnotic Cold War drama, "Firebird," is a true story about the forbidden love between Estonian private Sergey (an excellent Tom Prior) and his Lieutenant Roman Medveyev (Oleg Zagordnii), a fighter pilot on the same Air Force base. Set in the late '70s into the '80s and based on Sergey Fetisov's memoir "The Story of Roman," the film is a terrifically crafted romance thriller (with some soapy melodrama in the mix) about the difficulties of being gay in certain parts of the world in the recent past (and the closing title reminds us that LGBTQ people are again at risk in Russia and the surrounding countries). Prior co-wrote and co-produced the film making him a triple threat. My choice for the Best Film at Frameline 2021.

"Everybody's Talking About Jamie"

"Everybody's Talking About Jamie"

The film adaptation of the award-winning West End musical that I had the great good fortune to see in London, is inspired by true events and centers on queer teen, Jamie New (amazing newcomer Max Harwood) who has just turned 16 and dreams of being a drag queen. He is supported by his devoted mum (the gifted Sarah Lancashire) and a drag-mum-of-sorts, Miss Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant, fabulous) but there are certain kids and even adults at school who make his life difficult. The joyous musical numbers and queer-positive message make for a truly smashing film, directed with flash and flair by Jonathan Butterell.

"Summer of 85"

"Summer of 85"

François Ozon has adapted Aidan Chamber's YA novel, "Dance on My Grave," and made it his own. "Summer of 85" is a transfixing look at a love affair between two teen boys set in 1980s Normandy and starring two of France's most promising new actors, Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin. Both do compelling work playing two 18-year-olds of slightly different classes with diverging ideas about fidelity and loyalty. The chemistry between these two is off the charts. "Summer of 85" asks intriguing questions about why we fall in love and whether we can ever really know one another. Ozon blends the playful and lighthearted with touches of the sinister and macabre and delivers a haunting cinematic experience. In French with English subtitles.

"Charlatan"

"Charlatan"

Agnieszka Holland directs one of her best films in years with the hypnotic "Charlatan," a complex portrait of the controversial Czech herbalist/healer Jan Mikolášek (played by father and son, Ivan and Josef Trojan) who happened to prefer men, in his case his assistant (the dashing Juraj Loj). This epic saga spans the two great wars and beyond boasting a tender yet tempestuous gay love story at its center. In Czech and German with English subtitles.

"Language Lessons"

"Language Lessons"

So, how tired are we all of Zoom? If we have to watch another — wait, just a minute. Natalie Morales' surprisingly engrossing film, "Language Lessons," is basically two people going back and forth on Zoom, but it is so much more. Oakland resident Adam (Mark Duplass — is there anything this actor can't do?) finds himself gifted with Spanish lessons by his loving husband. The tutor, Cariño (Morales), lives in Costa Rica and when a tragedy ensues the two begin to bond in the most bizarre but deeply affecting ways. The film is about connecting and how technology truly can bring us together if we use it wisely. In Spanish and English with English subtitles.

"Jump, Darling"

"Jump, Darling"

Academy Award winner, Cloris Leachman ("The Last Picture Show") had 287 IMDB credits when she died at the age of 94. And had it not been for COVID she might have amassed many more. Phil Connell wrote and directed "Jump, Darling," her final star performance, and it's a gem. The film tells the story of a failed actor Russell (an endearing Thomas Duplessie) who is happiest performing in drag (a theme this year). He leaves Toronto and his annoying boyfriend and moves back to suburbia to live with his elderly grandmother (Leachman) where he starts performing in the local dive bar. Leachman is a marvel and both actors find dignity in their respective struggles. The film is about taking charge of our respective journeys and not allowing anyone to deter us.

"Potato Dreams of America"

"Potato Dreams of America"

Writer-director Wes Hurley looks to his own life with the genre-mashup, "Potato Dreams of America." This comedy-drama blends elements of '80s studio films with Genet and even Waters and is oddly poignant. And the film contains one of the best reactions ever captured onscreen to a mother being told her son is gay. Hurley elicits great work from his ensemble, especially his two Lenas (Sera Barbieri and Marya Sea Kaminski).

"Milkwater"

"Milkwater"

Morgan Ingari's feature debut, "Milkwater," boasts a strong and heartfelt performance by Molly Bernard ("Younger") as a young New Yorker who sees her friends being pulled away (via love relationships) and, upon meeting a 52-year old drag bar owner (Patrick Breen), decides to make his dream a reality by having his child. The funny, poignant film examines the intricacies involved with surrogacy — to a point — choosing to force a narrative shift that feels like it exists simply to add conflict. Regardless, the film asks pertinent questions and, for the most part, feels truthful — which is more than I can say for another contrived surrogacy film earlier this year, "Together, Together."

"Boy Meets Boy"

"Boy Meets Boy"

Set in Berlin, Daniel Sanchez Lopez's delightful "Boy Meets Boy" is basically about two attractive guys who spend a day getting to know each other. Johannes (Alexis Kotsoulis) is a dancer who dreams of being a father. Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is a British doctor on holiday. Lopez's script is smart and involving.

"Ma Belle, My Beauty"

"Ma Belle, My Beauty"

In Marion Hill's first feature, "Ma Belle, My Beauty," set in southern France, two former polyamorous lovers (Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper) are reunited by the former's current husband (Lucien Guignard) and passion is reignited. It's an engaging film that fully comes to life when Johnson sings. Guignard is a standout.

Documentary Features:

Documentary Features:

"Baloney"

Joshua Guerci's truly absorbing and wickedly funny "Baloney" is a portrait of a troupe of queer and queer-friendly artists (although that might just be redundant in this case) who make up San Francisco's first and only all-male gay revue. Mostly shot pre-pandemic with a current-coda, the doc is an inside look at the creatives involved including its two masterminds, Michael Phillis and Rory Davis. These tremendously talented artists blend social commentary with sexual fantasy and add burlesque. The doc is so appealing I can't wait for the Baloney boys (and girl) to bring their show to NYC. Soon, please!

"Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation"

"Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation"

Lisa Immordino Vreeland has structured a captivating and cleverly contrasting examination of two of the most significant writers of the last century. "Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation" teases a sit down with these titanic scribes. What we get is a host of intimate photos, film clips, TV moments as well as the writings of both Capote and Williams as interpreted by Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto, respectively. As much as they had in common is as much as they differed, and this doc places the words and worlds of these two enigmatic authors center stage.

"P.S. Burn This Letter Pleas

"P.S. Burn This Letter Pleas

The discovery of a box in a storage unit in 2014 by filmmakers Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera led to a treasure trove of letters to and from DJ and talent agent Reno Martin that documented the world of a group of drag queens in the 1950s and early '60s. Via these precious artifacts, "P.S. Burn This Letter Please" provides an illuminating portrait of what life was like for these queer people pre-Stonewall, when the art of female impersonation as well as homosexuality itself were still criminal offenses. The film shines an important light on a part of queer history that has been disregarded.

"Being Thunder"

"Being Thunder"

Stéphanie Lamorré's "Being Thunder" is a fascinating doc that explores the life of an East Coast Native American two-spirit teenager, Sherente Harris. Living with several identities, Sherente is accepted by family but not by the tribal community. "Being Thunder" explores themes that include identity and self-expression and is a welcome addition to the sorely lacking Native American film canon.

"Ailey"

"Ailey"

Dance Icon Alvin Ailey's life-affirming choreography often reflected his own truth about identity and alienation, but also his notions of joy. Jamila Wingnot's exuberant doc tries to shed some light on the enigmatic "Ailey" in her portrait of this singular queer artist struggling with demons and taken from us far too early.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute