Castro & 18th

Castro & 18thWhen 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.


Hurricane Bianca

This past Monday, the 40th annual Frameline (San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival) announced its entire line-up and it does not disappoint. The longest running LGBTQ film festival in the U.S will start Thursday, June 16 through Sunday, June 26. A few weeks earlier, Inside Out (Toronto, Canada) also announced its line-up, and will kick things off tomorrow, Thursday May 26 (running through, Sunday, June 5) with the International premiere of writer/director Chris Kelly’s, Other People, a dramedy which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this past January.

While both festivals boasts some of the best foreign and American independent LGBTQ films in world, and sharing similar titles, each festival, respectfully, have a couple titles that are only playing at one of the festivals.

Bianca Del Rio

The one title that stands out the most might be the world premiere of writer/director, Matt Kugelman’s,Hurriance Bianca, featuring Bianca Del Rio as a teacher, Richard who gets fired from his small town school in Texas for being gay, and comes back as fierce Bianca, working on taking control of the school. The film features Alan Cumming, Margaret Cho, Rachel Dratch, and RuPaul. The film looks to be hoot and I sure hope it is one we can bring to aGLIFF this September.

Another film of interest is the North American premiere, Burn Burn Burn, the debut feature from director Chanya Button. When best friends Alex and Seph (featuring Downton Abbey’s, Laura Carmichael “aka Lady Edith”) lose their best guy friend, Alex, and decide to drive across the UK to scatter his ashes. Along the way, each woman is dealing with her own personal issues, including Alex who walked in on her girlfriend with another woman, and Steh hating everything and everyone at the moment.

Frameline, also has a few films not screening at Inside Out, even snagging an intriguing world premiere of its own, director Nick Corporon’s, Retake, has a lovely and potential potboiler mystery looped in it’s a romantic premise, “A lonely, middle-aged man hires a male prostitute to recreate a road trip from his past.” Anything sounds possible in this scenario, and has its hooks in us.

While it has only played a few festivals since it won the Teddy jury prize at this year’s Berlinale, Chilean pop star Alex Anwandter, directed, produced, wrote and scored, You’ll Never Be Alone, who based the film on a true story, from one of his fans being attacked by Neo-Nazis outside of a show in 2012. No question, the subject matter is bleak, but let’s hope Anwandter’s lives up to its Teddy award win.


This Year at Tribecca

Starting this Wednesday April 13 through Sunday April 24, the 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival, one of the most prolific U.S. film festivals, begins. Opening with the American documentary, “First Monday in May,” follows the creation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” exhibition, by curator Andrew Bolton and is directed by New Yorker, Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside the New York Times”) should be a grand kick-off for the festival.

I’ll be attending Tribeca for a week looking for some of the newer LGBTQ titles premiering at the festival for their World or North American premiere. There are quite a few hot titles we’ll be looking at including the documentary, “Strike a Pose” about Madonna’s seven male dancers from the Blonde Ambition tour and the narrative feature, “King Cobra” covering the early porn years of Sean Paul Lockhart (aka Brent Corrigan) and his involvement with film producers and murder. It stars James Franco, Christian Slater, Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald.

king cobra

Here is a look at some of the other LGBTQ related titles screening at Tribeca, which we will be looking to bring back to Austin this September: (all synopsis’ provided by Tribeca Film Festival)

“Check It”
 directed by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Fed up with being abused and harassed on the brutal inner-city streets of Washington D.C., a group of gay and trans teens form a gang to fight back. This raw and intimate portrait follows four Check It members as they struggle to find a way out of gang life through an unlikely avenue: fashion.  

Strike a Pose” directed and written by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. (Netherlands) – North American Premiere, Documentary. To the fans, they were the unforgettably talented men who supported the career of one of the world’s most beloved and controversial music artists: Madonna. Behind the scenes they were an impressionable group of young dancers whose lives were forever changed by her influence. Strike a Pose reunites the men 25 years later, providing the chance to learn about the emotional truth behind the glamorous facade.  

King Cobra” directed and written by Justin Kelly. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. This ripped-from-the-headlines drama covers the early rise of gay porn headliner Sean Paul Lockhart (Garrett Clayton), aka Brent Corrigan, before his falling out with the producer (Christian Slater) who made him famous. When Sean decides he’d be better off a free agent, a cash-strapped pair of rival producers (James Franco and Keegan Allen) aim to cash in by any means possible. With Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald

Reset (Relève) directed and written by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai. (France) – International Premiere, Documentary.Stunningly gorgeous and delicate in both subject and treatment, Reset depicts renowned choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied (also known for choreographing the dance sequences in Black Swan) as he attempts to rejuvenate the Paris Opera Ballet in his new position as director. With appearances by composer Nico Muhly, Opera alumna Aurélie Dupont, and designer Iris van Herpen, Reset is a delightfully aesthetic affair. In French with subtitles.

AWOL” directed by Deb Shoval, written by Deb Shoval and Karolina Waclawiak. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey (Lola Kirke) is a young woman in search of direction in her small town. A visit to an army recruiting office appears to provide a path, but when she meets and falls in love with Rayna (Breeda Wool) that path diverges in ways that neither woman anticipates. Building on the award-winning short of the same name, director Deb Shoval crafts a clear-eyed love story, and an impressive feature film debut.

Women Who Kill” directed and written by Ingrid Jungermann. (USA) – World Premiere. Morgan and Jean work well together as true crime podcasters because they didn’t work well, at all, as a couple. When Morgan strikes up a new relationship with the mysterious Simone, their shared interest turns into suspicion, paranoia, and fear. Ingrid Jungermann’s whip smart feature debut is an adept and wry comedy on modern romance’s hollow results, set in an LGBTQ Brooklyn. With Ingrid Jungermann, Ann Carr, Sheila Vand, Shannon O’Neill, Annette O’Toole, Grace Rex

Memories of a Penitent Heart” directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA, Puerto Rico) – World Premiere. Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets. In English, Spanish with subtitles.

California” directed by Marina Person (Brazil) – North American Premiere. Narrative. The year is 1984, and Brazil is on the cusp of massive political change. Estela is a high school woman preparing to travel to California to visit her uncle, who is a music journalist and pop-culture connoisseur. She focuses on keeping up her grades to go on her trip while navigating romance, sex and social pressures. But when Estela’s uncle suddenly returns to Brazil sickly thin and pale, intending to get his things in order, the family’s quiet mourning hints at the nascent AIDS epidemic of the ’80s. Set to the musical and cultural touchstones of the era—Bowie, the Cure, Kerouac’s On the RoadCalifórnia tells a nostalgic coming-of-age story very much of a moment in time, but also speaking to universal experiences of family, love and growing up.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four” directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In 1994, four women were tried and convicted of a heinous assault on two young girls in a court case that was infused with homophobic prejudice and the Satanic Panic sweeping the nation at that time. Southwest of Salem is a fascinating true crime story that puts the trial of the San Antonio Four in context of their ongoing search for exoneration.


Spring Festival Season

bluebonnetSpring has sprung no question here in the heart of Texas, but, also around the world, where April seems to be the month where film festivals are blooming just like our bluebonnets. Why is April a prime month for a film festival? Many reasons could be a factor; IMO, the yearly festival cycle starts over every year when Cannes Film Festival launches in mid-May, and with some two-dozen festivals in April, they might still be premiering films in there city or state from the 2015 Cannes festival slate. Another major festival in September, Toronto Int’l Film Festival hosts some 300+ films and many of the films do not find American theatrical distribution or find a VOD home, and continue to play festivals throughout the year. So again like Cannes, many of the TIFF films are just now coming to a city or state for the first time, this spring.
Once a new calendar year hits, you have the likes of the Sundance Film Festival kicking things off in January, followed by Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Sweden’s Goteborg, Berlinale, True/False in Columbia, Missouri, New Directors/New Films in New York and Austin’s very own, SXSW. All these festivals leave their mark on every festival throughout the world. To have a film, which premiered or played at one of these festivals is a major score, if you are able to screen films from these festivals, given the accolades and prestige these festivals carry, they are respected and programmers at these festivals, seem to find a little bit of everything in the films they select.
So why is April a crazy busy month on the festival circuit? After all these festivals are over, many of the April festivals “cherry-pick” select films from these various festivals and bring them to their festival. Some undoubtedly, probably do not want to host a festival during the winter months. (I know that was the case, when I worked at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l Festival, or MSPIFF, where you only a have a couple of nice months of weather and outdoors.) They have also seen the programs from earlier festivals and can reach out to obtain these films, as films premiering at Sundance and Berlinale are considered “newer “ films on the festival circuit.
As aGLIFF approaches this September, I’ll be keeping a close eye on these April festivals, for any and all LGBTQIA titles screening and/or premiering in hopes of bringing them to aGLIFF as part of our annual festival or perhaps as a monthly screening, later on.
The first to kick-off the “spring” festival bloom, Cleveland Int’l Film Festival starts today and runs for 12 days. CIFF always has a nice LGBTQIA program called, “10% Cinema” and includes a few past aGLIFF titles, “Desert Migration” and “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party.”

After Cleveland, the floodgates really open up with the following festivals in April: MSPIFF, Wisconsin, Chicago International Music & Movies, RiverRun in Winston-Salem North Carolina, the Florida Film Festival, Sarasota, Full Frame documentary film festival in Dunham, North Carolina, Tribeca, Washington D.C Nashville, Atlanta, Phoenix, Sonoma, Annapolis, Newport Beach, Dallas, San Francisco and the Louisiana Film Festival located in Baton Rouge. And those are only in the United States, and the ones, which I have been following for years, in fact, there could be more. Festivals internationally include Hot Docs in Toronto, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Istanbul and Vision du Reel in Switzerland.

So yes, part of being the program director is watching all of the film submissions that get submitted to aGLIFF, but also keeping track of as many festival program slates as possible, looking for stand out LGBTQIA titles to bring back to Austin for the 29th annual, or to attend the festival(s). In April, I will be traveling to Minneapolis, New York and Newport Beach to attend three different festivals. A huge part of this job is tons and tons of research to know what other festivals are playing and if multiple festivals are playing the same films, or if they are playing only world premieres titles, or if they want to top films from every country and every state. Every programmer(s), taste can vary but there is never a short supply of films out in the festival circuit.
Some festivals may only showcase a few LGBTQIA titles, but sometimes they have some top-tier films, and the films are strong in content, story/subject matter, technically made, and offer a new perspective, or a new voice, it is all the reason to seek the film out to try to include in our program.
So let’s hope this promising spring bloom on the festival circuit carries over to the 29th annual aGLIFF this September.
-Jim Brunzell III


Top Picks for SXSW 2016

LOEV pix

We at aGLIFF are always excited for when SXSW hits Austin. There is no shortage of events happening everyday at SX, including over 150+ films screening over the course of nine days at various venues all over Austin. From the majestic Paramount Theater in the heart of downtown off Congress, where huge premiere films usually have screening including opening night film, “Everybody Wants Some” from local writer/director, Richard Linklater, to Alamo Drafthouse Ritz off of 6th St or Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, a little south of downtown off of Lamar Ave, SXSW films will be screening at 13 different venues. There are plenty of film categories to choose from American, Foreign, Narrative, Documentaries, Short Films, Music Videos, and Episodic section of upcoming television shows.

If you wanted to take the time to go through all the films, reading the descriptions, seeing what venue they are playing at, and what time and day they screen, you could probably spend an entire going through the entire catalog mapping out your crash course of the film schedule.

Well, we have taken the time to go through the entire catalog in search of all the LGBTQ feature length films and we would like to share what we found that we’re hoping to see as they screen, and hope you valued reader can fit some of these into your insane schedule.

We are also welcoming visiting filmmakers, producers, actors, and distributors and many of them will be attending our annual brunch, this Saturday, March 12 from 11am – 2pm at The Iron Bear, 121 W 8TH St and Colorado Ave. (Only one block west of Congress and nearby the Paramount & Stateside Theater).

Meet up with friends and filmmakers, for food and drinks, networking, receive info on aGLIFF events and future screenings and the opportunity to meet with new, returning and local filmmakers with films screening at SXSW. Some of the special guests who will be stopping by are from films, “The Incomparable Rose Hartman,” “The Liberators,” “Loev,” “Mr. Gaga” and “UIO: Take Me For a Ride.” So stop on by and meet some of these fabulous folks and catch their films while you’re at SXSW.

No RSVP required, but kindly requested – brunch@agliff.org

Enjoy SXSW and see you at the movies!

-Jim Brunzell III (aGLIFF, Program Director)

Below is the list of LGBTQ related films screening at SXSW (All film synopsis’ provided by SXSW)

The Incomparable Rose Hartman (World Premiere) “You may not know her by name but you’ve seen her work. Starting with Studio 54 and moving forward into the New York celebrity fashion scene, Rose has photographed every major celebrity, fashion designer, artist, and socialite who has ever ventured out into the nightlife of NYC. Rose was one of the first photographers to capture the backstage environment of the fashion world and is known by the industry elite as the woman who takes a portrait that the subject would have taken themselves. The film follows Rose through her life of entrée as she put the lives of the glamorous and famous on film that serves as one of the few visual histories of NYC.” Film Trailer Screening Info

The Liberators (World Premiere) “Medieval art treasures seized by the Nazis go missing at the end of World War II. Were they destroyed in the chaos of the final battles? Or were these thousand-year-old masterpieces stolen by advancing American troops? For over forty years, the mystery remained unsolved. A true detective story, THE LIBERATORS follows a dogged German art detective through the New York art world and military archives to the unlikeliest of destinations: a small town on the Texas prairie. The film raises intriguing questions as to the motivations of the art thief and the whereabouts of the items that, to this day, remain waiting to be discovered.” Screening Info

Loev (North American Premiere) “When hot shot, Wall Street dealmaker Jai thinks of putting some pleasure into his 48 hour business trip to Mumbai, Sahil, his young, music-producer friend, drops everything, including his reckless boyfriend Alex, to help him execute the perfect getaway. Hiking the hills and canyons of Maharashtra, amidst half-attempted conversations and sudden silences, business calls and old jokes, the friends discover there is more than just time-zones keeping them apart. Things take another turn when Alex shows up with a new male-companion at his side, throwing up old conflicts and bringing unanswered questions to the fore.” Screening Info

Mr. Gaga (North American Premiere)“Enter the world of Ohad Naharin, renowned choreographer and artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company. MR. GAGA, eight years in the making, captures the elusive beauty of contemporary dance and immerses the audience in the creative process behind Batsheva’s unique performances. Using intimate rehearsal footage, extensive unseen archive materials and stunning dance sequences, acclaimed director Tomer Heymann (PAPER DOLLS, I SHOT MY LOVE) tells the fascinating story of an artistic genius who redefined the language of modern dance.” Film Trailer Screening Info

UIO: Take Me For a Ride (World Premiere)“Starting her senior year in high school, Sara doesn’t have many friends and is caught between an overbearing mother, and a more understanding father. With uneasiness at school and tension in the household, Sara escapes to smoke in a little alley alone – that is – until Andrea, a new classmate, arrives. A close friendship develops to all that can see, but behind closed doors, an intimate relationship unfolds, which, when discovered, throws everything into disarray.” Film Trailer Screening Info

Operator (World Premiere) “Joe (Martin Starr) loves data. He tracks his diet and exercise, his mood and sex life – turning the information into beautiful charts that help him control his often overwhelming anxiety. At work Joe designs personalities for digital customer service voices, but his latest robo-agent for a client is a disaster. In a moment of inspiration he enlists his wife Emily (Mae Whitman) to serve as the template for the redesigned voice. The project goes well until Joe’s obsession with replicating his wife’s empathy threatens their marriage.” Screening Info

Presenting Princess Shaw (Texas Premiere) “By day, Samantha Montgomery cares for the elderly in one of New Orleans’s toughest neighborhoods. By night, she writes and sings her own songs as Princess Shaw on her confessional YouTube channel. Raw and vulnerable, her voice is a diamond in the rough. Across the globe, Ophir Kutiel creates video mash ups of amateur Youtube performers. Known as Kutiman, he is a composer, a musician, and a pioneering video artist. Two strangers, almost 7,000 miles apart, begin to build a song. The film unfolds as Kutiman pairs Princess Shaw’s emotional performances in a beautiful expression of generosity and compassion, revealing the bona fide star underneath and her fight to never give up on her dreams.” Film Trailer Screening Info

Slash (World Premiere) “Neil is an introverted, questioning high school freshman. His main social outlet is the steamy erotic fan fiction he writes about Vanguard, the brawny, galaxy-hopping hero of a popular sci-fi franchise. When his stories are exposed in class Neil is mortified, but the fearless, effortlessly cool Julia comes to his defense. An erotic fan fic writer herself, Julia pushes Neil to publish his stories to an online “adult” forum, where they quickly grab the attention of the site moderator, Denis. When Neil is invited to present his work at a comic con live-read event, he has to face the fact that Denis’ interest in him may be more than simply professional… perhaps like his own feelings for Julia.” Screening Info

Baby Bump (U.S. Premiere) “Mickey House is an 11-year-old who is increasingly frustrated with his changing body. He is no longer a child but he doesn’t know who he is. A loner at school, his mom is an enigma to him, and he finds solace in dealing in urine at school to put off the medical checks of other students. On top of hating everything that is happening to his body his imagination and reality blend together into a toxic mix and as everything takes a turn to the extreme, Mickey faces the fact – that growing up is not for kids.” Screening Info

You Me Her (Episodic program/World Premiere) “YOU ME HER, television’s first “polyromantic comedy,” infuses the grounded and relatable sensibilities of an indie rom-com with a distinctive twist. What begins as an impulsive “date” between suburban husband Jack and neophyte escort Izzy spins into a whirlwind three-way affair including Jack’s wife Emma, who’s been keeping secrets of her own. Their “arrangement” soon breaks free of its financial bonds to become something else entirely – a real romance with real stakes involving three real people – confronting viewers with a compelling question: What if your best, truest, happiest life looked nothing like you thought it would? Would you be brave enough to live it?Screening Info