Frameline 36 — this year’s edition of the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival running Thursday through June 24 — has the broad theme “Find Your Story.”
Second only to concepts of male and female, and sometimes blurring that line, LGBT people — frequently appended with Q, I and other initials — represent a thoroughly diverse spectrum of humanity.
To reflect that, curators of Frameline 36 have gathered more than 200 films, from truly short locally-made shorts (the eight-minute “Bears of San Francisco”) to global documentaries (the life and death of Ugandan activist David Kato is explored in “Call Me Kuchu”) and mainstream Hollywood-star narratives (Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker play a couple of senior lesbians on the lam in “Cloudburst.”)
A 124-page catalog tells the whole festival story, but queer film buffs will surely want to check out “Vito,” the opening night documentary feature directed by Jeffrey Schwarz about activist and film historian Vito Russo, whose “The Celluloid Closet” became the foundation of LGBT film study.
Other noteworthy entries include “Facing Mirrors (Ayenhaye Roobero),” the first Iranian feature with a transgender protagonist; “Love Free or Die,” a documentary that explores the heightened conflicts within the Episcopal Church since the election of Gene Robinson as its first out gay bishop; and “Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean,” which offers a different look at the iconic star.
As always, Frameline provides an excellent opportunity see the LGBT experience through global eyes, including offerings this year from South Africa (“Beauty,” or “Skoonheid”), Israel (“Joe+Belle”), Chile (“A Map to Talk,” “Mapa para Conversar”), and Turkey (“Zenne Dancer”).
Plentiful stories, narrative and documentary, can be found in 19 programs of short films gathered around central topics like bisexuality (“Bi Candy”), kink (“Black & Blue All Over”), youth and aging (“Generations”), and camp (“Empire of Evil”). Each program runs about 90 minutes and features from three to nine titles.
No festival is complete without awards, and this year the Frameline Award honors writer B. Ruby Rich, herald of the New Queer Cinema movement, and screens prime genre examples from the 1990s including Gregg Araki’s “The Living End” and Cheryl Dunye’s “The Watermelon Woman.”
Without its LGBT context, the 11-day festival, with screenings at San Francisco’s Castro, Roxie and Victoria cinemas plus the Elmwood in Berkeley, would still be an astonishing amalgamation of voices. With it, Frameline is a celebratory annual opportunity for this most diverse community to find and tell its story.
IF YOU GO
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., S.F.; Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave., Berkeley
When: Thursday through June 24
Tickets: $8 to $15 most screenings, $30 to $90 special events
Contact: (415) 703-8655 or www.frameline.org