The Top 20 Films from the Frameline Film Festival

The Top 20 Films from the Frameline Film Festival

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This week is San Francisco’s Frameline film festival! The official name is the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, and it’s the largest and oldest queer film festival in the world. This is their 40th anniversary, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled this list of the best films playing this year at Frameline — get your tickets here!


1985 isn’t your standard AIDS heart-breaker; it doesn’t spoon-feed messages about treating sick people with dignity and respect. It’s 2016 after all, and though HIV-stigma (and deaths) still surround us, many of our poz friends aren’t on their way to the graveyard; they’re on their way to brunch. So what could a film about AIDS and HIV possibly teach us 15 years after the epidemic’s zenith? A lot, it turns out. Read our interview with the director here.

The Celluloid Closet

This classic documentary traces the path of how LGBTQ people have been portrayed in film since the very beginning — seriously, there’s a clip of a 1916 Chaplin film! — to 1995, when the documentary was made. Most of the films on our list are new, so why is this classic film here? Because on Friday, June 24th, it’ll be a special presentation: Both directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, will be there, alongside the famous writer Armistead Maupin. Not just that, but The Celluloid Closet will ALSO screen with the short film Zeitgeist 1977: The First Festival, a seven-minute look at the “Gay Film Festival of Super-8 Films”, which eventually became Frameline. If you ever wanted a crash course in queer film history, make sure you go!

Closet Monster

The debut feature film from Stephen Dunn (creator of the brilliant Pop-Up Porno shorts) is a coming-of-age story about a teenage makeup artist struggling with his own sexuality; he’s got a crush, but a gay-bashing he witnessed as a child has given him recurring nightmares. Isabella Rosellini appears as a talking hamster — and the nightmares have been positively compared to body horror maestro David Cronenberg.

Fun In Boys Shorts/Fun In Girls Shorts

The two “Fun In Shorts” programs are collections of comedic shorts having to do with the LGBTQ experience. (But you know, they’re way more funny than that makes that sound.) In “Boys”, you can see the hilariously-titled Sauna The Dead (we can’t resist a good pun), a zombie film set in a London bathhouse, the animated Bittersweet and the boxing-promo parody Weigh In — among six other shorts. As for “Girls”, the six shorts include Tits on a Bull, about a rugby player falling in love with her team captain, Spunkle — where a woman and her wife ask her brother to be their sperm donor (again, puns!), and Virgin Territory about a teen who wants to lose her virginity.


Furries get a lot of shit, and undeservedly so. The new documentary, Fursonas, makes an attempt to ditch that stigma by interviewing a number of furries about their fandom. The filmmakers go to Anthrocon, the world’s largest furry convention, and talk to the organizers there, too. Still worried it might be a slam piece? Don’t be — it’s gotten good response in the furry community — one review says “it beats Zootopia as [the] most important furry movie.”

Growing Up Coy

Even though if you talk to a lot of trans people, they’ll say they always knew from a really young age, a lot of people think trans kids don’t exist. Growing Up Coy is a documentary about a Colorado family who realized one of their triplets was actually a girl, and embraced that even when she was just a toddler. Unfortunately, when Coy went into first grade, she was barred from using the girls’ bathroom — so her family fights for her right to pee where she should.

A Holy Mess (En Underbar Jävla Jul)

Christmas is a time of joy and stress — the Swedish film A Holy Mess, directed by Helena Bergström, shows both. A gay couple have just bought a new house with their fried Cissi — who’s also agreed to be their surrogate mother for their coming baby. Add in the couple’s parents, who have never met, and you’ve got a yuletide nightmare.


The new documentary has been compared to the classic Paris Is Burning. Where that film looked at the New York ballroom scene, Kiki looks at the dance culture of current queer youth of color. The film was directed by Sara Jordenö, and was written with one of the Kiki scene House Mothers, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, meaning the film is authentic, not just the view of an outsider looking in. Kiki looks at dance as art, life and survival.


Fans of the late, lamented HBO series Looking will be sure to want to check out the new film. In the film, Patrick (Jonathan Groff) returns to San Francisco for a wedding. He’d left for a job months ago — or so he says. Patrick meets up with his old friends and foes from the series — and if you go to the Frameline screening on June 26th, you’ll get to see the director, co-creator and stars! If you can’t make it to San Francisco like Patrick, rest easy: HBO will air the movie next month.

Oh, The Horror

This is another shorts collection, running on Friday, June 24, looking at gay horror films. The aforementioned Sauna The Dead (also screening as part of “Fun In Boys Shorts”) makes an appearance along with four other films: B., a stop-motion film from Germany made with dolls (shades of Todd Haynes’ Superstar?), Monster Mash, featuring two queer horror fanboys who bond over scary movies, PYOTR495, a Russian horror film that adds a supernatural element to the gay-bashing epidemic, and Tonight It’s You, where a late-night hookup goes awry.

Out Run

Ovarian Psycos

Hailing from neighborhoods in north and east LA, the Ovas are a masked bicycle gang who ride out to reclaim streets where women have recently been murdered. This film also appeared on our list of our favorite film posters from SXSW.

Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo (Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau)

Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo is the newest film from Olivier Ducastel and Jacque Martineau, the filmmakers of Born in ’68 and Côte d’Azur. In the film, we follow Theo and Hugo — in real time — as they meet at a sex club in Paris, have sex, and leave together, talking about themselves, their philosophies and more. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the work of Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Slacker, Waking Life), you’ll want to make sure to check this one out.

Real Boy

The documentary Real Boy tells the story of Bennett Wallace, a 19-year-old trans man in recovery, however, when he meets Joe Stevens from the band Coyote Grace — and a trans man himself — Bennett starts to come into his own and figure out his identity. The film is about growing — both in a literal sense, and an emotional sense as Bennett’s family tries to understand him.


Neil is young slash fan-fiction writer exploring his sexual feelings through stories about his favorite male superhero… but he also has some feelings for his best girlfriend and the erotic fanfic site owner who could help make his career. Yow! This film also appeared on our list of our favorite film posters from SXSW.

Suicide Kale

Mostly improvised, Suicide Kale is a dark comedy that looks at what happens when two lesbian couples have a lunch party. When one couple sneaks off for a quickie in their hosts’ bedroom, they discover an anonymous suicide note which casts an awkward pall over the meal.

These Cocksucking Tears

Long before the current crop of openly queer musicians were comfortable declaring themselves to the world — and before many of them were born — Pat Haggerty was singing gay country music on the album Lavender Country. The songs, including the amazingly-titled “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” was forgotten for years until it was recently rediscovered by music buffs. Now, the 1972 project has found a new life, and These Cocksucking Tears examines Pat’s work, his life and the impact he still has to this day. Read our interview with Pat Haggerty here.

Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story

The documentary Treasure is a critical look at the war on drugs, police culture, racism and transphobia. When 19-year-old trans woman Shelly “Treasure” Hillard was caught with a small amount of pot, and police swarmed her motel room, forcing her to work as an informant against her dealer, lest she go to jail. Sadly, when the police later exposed her as an informant, she was brutally, gruesomely murdered. Treasure tells the story of her family getting justice against the people who wronged her.

Upstairs Inferno

On June 24, 1973, an unknown arsonist set fire to the UpStairs Lounge, a small gay bar in New Orleans, killing 32 people. Due to the closeted circumstances of gay life at the time, what happened afterward only added insult to injury as survivors lost their jobs and churches refused funerals and memorial services to victims. Robert L. Camina’s latest documentary, Upstairs Inferno, is a horrifying, heartbreaking piece of late 20th century gay history. The film — narrated by Christopher Rice and stocked with survivor interviews — details what was, until Orlandothe largest mass murder of gay people in American history and its aftermath. Read our interview with the director here.

(Featured image via Growing Up Coy)

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