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“Croquettes” & “Undertow” On Top at Frameline34

"Croquettes" & "Undertow" On Top at Frameline34

Brazilian film “Dzi Croquettes” by Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa won Frameline34’s “Outstanding Documentary Award,” while the fest’s “Outstanding First Feature Award” went to Javier Fuentes-León’s “Undertow,” which screened as the event’s Centerpiece. “Postcard for Daddy,” meanwhile received an Honoralble Mention, capping the jury awards at the festival, the world’s largest and longest-running event dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films and filmmakers, which takes place annually in San Francisco.

In audience prizes, best feature film went to Tunisian film “The String,” described as a “story of romance and filial duty during a hot North African summer.” New Zealand group Topp Twins and director Leanne Pooley were awarded the best documentary award for “The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls,” a personal story of the yodeling lesbian songstresses. Hector Ceballos’ “Remember Me In Red” won best short in the audience category. The film centers on Fidelia, who arranges her best friend’s funeral amidst conflicting family demands around the transgender woman’s burial.

Director James Kent’s “The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister” opened Frameline, while Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Howl” closed out the fest. The festival screened 219 films in eleven days from June 17 – 27 at the Castro Theatre, the Roxie Film Center, the Victoria Theatre, and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley, with attendance this year topping 57,000.

Frameline34’s annual Frameline Award for excellence in LGBT filmmaking went to distributors Wolfe Video’s Kathy Wolfe and Maria Lynn. The distributor is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Film critic and academic B. Ruby Rich, who coined the term “New Queer Cinema,” was on hand to give out the award.

Frameline34’s Juried prize winners with descriptions provided by the festival:

Outstanding First Feature Award: “Undertow” (Contracorriente), directed by Javier Fuentes-León (Peru)

Miguel and Mariela are a happily married couple, well-respected in their small seaside fishing village and looking forward to the imminent arrival of their first child. Miguel genuinely adores his devoted wife, yet also carries on a clandestine affair with handsome drifter Santiago, a painter of sensual nudes who is euphemistically referred to as “Prince Charming” by the village gossips. Santiago yearns to celebrate his love openly, while Miguel insists on secrecy for fear of jeopardizing his domestic bliss.

As the story takes an otherworldly turn, rumors force Mariela to question her husband’s sexuality, and Miguel must accept his dual nature in order to refute Santiago’s angry claim that “There are thousands of ways of being a man, and you are none of them.”

Stunning views of Peru’s Cabo Blanco coast provide an appropriately stormy backdrop to the tempestuous emotions of the three protagonists. As its ominous title suggests, Undertow dives far below the seemingly placid surface of self-identity and family ties, churning up waves of passion — and a fateful accident — that overwhelm the film’s bisexual love triangle.

This Sundance award-winner enchants with unforgettable seascapes, and director Javier Fuentes-León eschews melodrama to present a transcendent romance in his remarkably assured feature debut. With moving performances by some of Latin America’s star actors, Undertow makes it easy to get swept away. (Description written for Frameline by Steven Jenkins)

Outstanding Documentary Award: “Dzi Croquettes,” directed by Tatiana Issa and Raphael Alvarez (Brazil)

Performing troupes come and go but social justice with sequins never truly goes out of style. Dzi Croquettes tells the tale of the rise and fall of Brazil’s theater group that revolutionized queer performance art in the context of the political, social and cultural climate of Brazil in the 1970s.

A scene from Tatiana Issa and Raphael Alvarez’s “Dzi Croquettes.”

This colorful documentary uncovers the livelihood of Dzi Croquettes, a Brazilian drag troupe loosely based on San Francisco’s The Cockettes. In order to assert the merits of individualism, nonconformity and the arts, the fully sequined, all-male cabaret Dzi Croquettes formed in the early 1970s in Brazil as a response to the military dictatorship’s violence and censorship.

The group of thirteen stage performers embodied masculinity and femininity in ways that had never before been seen; they were not female impersonators yet refused to call themselves men, and this sexual ambiguity quickly earned the adoration of men and women, gay and straight.

With tantalizing archival footage, directors Tatiana Issa and Raphael Alvarez lead viewers through the glamorous years of Dzi Croquettes — including the group’s rise to fame in Paris thanks to Liza Minelli — and how drugs and incessant bickering led to its demise. This vibrant tribute is a celebration of the fabulous troupe that captivated audiences and revolutionized gender expression. (Description written for Frameline by Alex Chousa)

Special Mention: “Postcard to Daddy,” directed by Michael Stock (Germany)

The Stock family photos look like conventional portraits of everyday life: trips to the beach, bright-eyed children, lively images of smiling faces and innocence. Pictures sometimes lie. What they don’t show is the painful secret that Michael Stock kept hidden away during his childhood that would affect his entire life: Michael’s alcoholic father sexually abused him for eight years.

A scene from Michael Stock’s “Postcard to Daddy.”

Using interviews with family members, photos, and clips from his first feature film, Michael chronicles his personal quest for inner peace, often through frank self-reflection. Driven to drinking and drug use in order to numb the pain of his abuse, Michael’s life is one of complicated relationships and depression but also one of hope and survival.

As a gay man with both HIV and Hepatitis C, he works through shame to declare himself a survivor. His mother, who left his father after she discovered the abuse, feels tremendous guilt but wishes that everyone would put the situation to rest. His sister refuses to speak to their father or let him see his grandkids. His brother, however, has a difficult time reconciling his own happy memories with Michael’s truth.

After having a series of strokes, Michael’s wish is to bring his story to TV to give a voice to other victims. Following the cathartic work of most of the film, Michael agrees to sit down with his father. It’s an emotional climax that demonstrates the human complexity of hurt and forgiveness. (Description written for Frameline by Angelique Smith)

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