When I arrived at the 40th annual Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, CA, I went straight to the Castro Theater for the opening night film, “Kiki.” On my way to theater, right down the block on Castro and 18th, I saw around a dozen people standing at the corner in front of hundreds of signs, posters, photos, flowers and names written on the sidewalk in different chalk colors. It was four days earlier, when news broke of the Orlando nightclub shooting had taken place and has now gone down in the U.S. as the worst terror attack since 9/11. Standing in front of this, I completely lost track of time walking up and down the street reading all the names, looking at the concrete wall with photos of individuals who died in the shooting, reading all the poems, words, people had written and left at the corner of the busiest thoroughfare in the Castro district, it was hard not to choke up, which just about happened. Even folks walking by while I stood there for almost 20 minutes, stopped in their tracks and took their time going through ever item placed on the corner as I had. It was a little tough to get jazzed up for an opening night film, at this point, but I did manage to get to the theater right when the opening credits appeared on screen.
After the screening, most of the patrons, along with “Kiki” director Sara Jordeno and many of the subjects (including co-writer & subject Twiggy Pucci Garcon) went to the opening night gala at NWBLK, where the mood was light and outgoing. Shortly after the gala started, many of the subjects of the New York ballroom scene documentary, began to dance and the party really picked up, and others started joining in. Even executive director Frances Wallace and Director of Programming Desiree Buford were pulled onto the dance floor, spirits seemed to soar and while in the back of my mind I was still reeling about standing on the corner of Castro and 18th, only a few mere hours earlier. It felt like the week I was going to spend in San Francisco was going to be heart tugging, whether I wanted it to be or not, it was going to be an emotional and memorable trip looking for films to screen at aGLIFF in September.
Of the dozen or so films I saw many of them have a chance of being screened in Austin in a couple months. There is still plenty of planning that needs to be put in place, but yes, ultimately it is someone actually seeing a film, reaching out to the producer, distributor, or filmmaker in attendance. And this is the song and dance a programmer, festival director must make with every film he or she sees.
While there were a few films I had seen prior to heading out to San Francisco, but some I did re-watch with a packed audience, whether it was at the 1,400 seat Castro Theater, down the street at the Roxie or Victoria theater, audiences had packed most of the screenings I attended and some of there reactions were priceless. From every howl you hear before every Wolfe Video logo flashed on screen, to hisses of seeing Assembly member Peter Frusetta anytime on screen in the political documentary, “Political Animals” to the belly laughs felt and heard in the world premiere of Tom E. Brown’s surprising funny and moving, “Pushing Dead” featuring a terrific performance from James Roday (TV’s Psych) and the touching Frameline Award tribute to film consultant, producer, advisor, mentor and festival programmer Robert “Bob” Hawk with a showing of “Film Hawk” based on Bob’s life and his 50+ year film career. And at age, 78, Bob shows no signs of slowing down and retiring from the industry. (In fact, he’ll be attending aGLIFF as a juror this September, and we’ll be screening “Film Hawk”)
The 40th edition of Frameline or, “The King of Queer Film Festivals” screened some of the best and brightest LGBTQ films from around the world, which are still relevant and powerful stories this year or any year in film and it is still one of the best-curated festivals, I have been too. I for one will always remember this Frameline standing at the corner of Castro and 18th St thinking about those lives lost in Orlando and how stories impact and change our lives. Whether they are fact or fiction, America or foreign, our surroundings will always be paramount and while film is an important factor in my life, life itself is more promising and important, than howling before a film or getting popcorn right before the lights go down in a packed movie theater.