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Bi coastal celebration of Queer cinema

June is Gay Pride Month, and among the many celebrations are film festivals that showcase the new and provocative works of gay and lesbian film talents. Beginning this past weekend, two prominent film festivals dedicated to this niche opened nearly simultaneously in two of the most celebrated gay enclaves in the US: San Francisco, the California home of gay culture and queer politics, and Provincetown, the idyllic seaside resort on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. With its premieres, filmmaker appearances and late night parties, these two festival events have created a bi-coastal celebration of the best in queer cinema.

First out of the gate was the Provincetown International Film Festival (www.ptownfilmfest.com) which opened on Wednesday, June 15 with the East Coast premiere LAST DAYS, the latest film by gay auteur Gus Van Sant. The film, which had its world premiere last month at the Cannes Film Festival, is the story of a Kurt Cobain-like rock and roller’s final hours before ending his troubled life. The film, which contains a career-making performance by Michael Pitt, will be released later this summer by the newly formed Picturehouse, the new distribution arm of New Line Cinema and pay cable giant Home Box Office.

The Closing Night Selection, screening on Sunday, June 19, was HEIGHTS, a multi-character drama directed by Chris Terrio, and produced by acclaimed producer Ismail Merchant, who passed away just a few weeks ago. The film, which stars Glenn Close and an ensemble cast including James Marsden, Jesse Bradford and Elisabeth Banks, chronicles a whirlwind day of chance encounters that profoundly alter the complicated lives of a mother and daughter.

This year the festival also includes two Centerpiece Selections: Werner Herzog's astounding new documentary GRIZZLY MAN, about a real-life “man of the wilderness” who lives among Alaska’s grizzly bears; and GAME 6, a dramatic film about a writer who finds himself at an emotional crossroads in his life, with a memorable performance by Michael Keaton, and a superb ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Griffin Dunne, Bebe Neuwirth and Catherine O’Hara. The film, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is directed by Michael Hoffman with an original screenplay by acclaimed novelist Don De Lillo.

Other highlights of the Festival include: LOGGERHEADS, a poignant drama about repressed emotions in a small North Carolina town starring Tess Harper and Bonnie Hunt, and directed by Tim Kirkman; JUNEBUG, a Sundance Film Festival hit about a go-getter gallery owner from Chicago who travels to meet her husband’s Southern family, directed by Phil Morrison and featuring music from Yo La Tengo; DEEP BLUE, an exquisitely filmed underwater documentary that examines the prolific aquatic wildlife under the sea; MYSTERIOUS SKIN, the acclaimed new film from filmmaker provocateur Greg Araki; ADAM AND STEVE, a comedy about two New York couples, one straight the other gay, directed by actor-turned-director Craig Chester (SWOON), and THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREENE, based on cartoonist Eric Orner's popular strip, satirizing gay marriage, Internet dating and gay Republicans.

Maverick director John Waters attended the Festival to present the annual "Filmmaker On The Edge" award to writer/director Mary Harron, whose 1996 debut feature I SHOT ANDY WARHOL immediately launched her as one of indie film’s most promising new directors. Harron’s newest film is THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, homage to the porno princess of the 1950s, starring Gretchen Mol, Lili Taylor and Jared Harris. Previous Award recipients have included directors Jim Jarmusch, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant and John Waters, and producers Christine Vachon, Ted Hope and James Schamus.
While festival goers reveled on the tip of Cape Cod, three thousand miles away, the world’s oldest gay and lesbian film festival was kicking into high gear. Frameline 29, the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival, opened its 29th edition on Thursday, June 16th with the West Coast premiere of COTE D’AZUR, from French directors Olivier Duscatel and Jacques Martineau. In this Mediterranean romp, a lively family engages in all manners of sexual delights that include a mix of sexual partners.

TRANSAMERICA, which features a standout performance by DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES star Felicity Huffman (Best Actress, Tribeca Film Festival), will close the Festival on June 26th. The film, directed by Duncan Tucker, is a road movie that brings together a pre-operation transsexual with her sexually provocative teenage son.

For its Centerpiece selection, Frameline29 will screen HAPPY ENDINGS, which had its world premiere as the opener of the Sundance Film Festival, The film, directed by Don Roos (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX), features an ensemble cast including Tom Arnold, Laura Dern, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Ritter and Jesse Bradford in a sharp and witty look at love, family and the uncertainty of life.

Two Special Presentations will have their premieres during the Festival. SUMMER STORM, by German filmmaker Marco Kreuzpaintner, is a touching coming-of-age story in which two members of a rowing team find themselves on opposite sides of a difficult divide. TRANSGENERATION is an eight-episode documentary series airing on the Sundance Channel in September that captures four transgender college students during an academic year.

In all, the Festival will screen over 250 features, documentaries and shorts, making it the largest showcase of gay and lesbian programming on the circuit. Films having their world premieres at the event include BLOOD, SWEAT AND GLITTER (Sasha Aicken), an intimate look at the fiercely competitive battle among a host of glamorous transsexuals to be crowned Miss Trannyshack; CREATING A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Kathy Hines and Rebecca Burklee), a light-hearted documentary about multicultural lesbian couples and their families; ENDING AIDS: THE SEARCH FOR A VACCINE (Bill Jersey and Michael Schwartz), an engrossing look at the promise and obstacles of finding a cure for the deadly disease, narrated by Richard Gere; and SCREAMING QUEENS (Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker), a chronicling of early gay rebellion against police harassment that predated the famous Stonewall Riots in 1969.

International films making their US Premieres at the Festival include KATZENBALL (Germany, Veronika Minder), a historic look at the history of the lesbian movement; LES PETIT FILS (France, Ilan Duran Cohen), an insightful drama about two young men’s struggle to overcome their troubled family histories; GYPO (UK, Jan Dunn), a fascinating drama about a working class couple whose lives are affected by the arrival of a young Czech refugee; MY BROTHER NIKHIL (India, Nikhil Onir), the first Hindi film to take on the twin taboos of homosexuality and HIV; NIGHT SCENE (China, Cui Zi'en), a tale of male prostitution in the glittering cities of the new China; and SEVIGNE (Spain, Marta Balletbo), a revealing lesbian love story about a brilliant young director who decides to take on a play about the infamous 17th century Parisian libertine, Madame de Sevigne.

This year’s recipient of the Frameline Award is maverick US director Greg Araki. The auteur is being honored for his uncompromising and unconventional contribution to queer cinema, with such landmark films as THE LIVING END, TOTALLY FUCKED UP and THE DOOM GENERATION. Araki’s current film, the highly praised MYSTERIOUS SKIN, is currently playing in theaters.

Frameline29 (www.frameline.org) is presented by Frameline, a non-profit organization dedicated to the financial support and distribution of artistic expression in film, video, and other media arts made by and for the gay and lesbian communities.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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