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10 Films You Must Watch at Frameline 2014

10 Films You Must Watch at Frameline 2014

We’ll be offering tons of coverage of Frameline — the world’s largest and oldest LGBT film festival — when it kicks off 11 days of cinema in San Francisco tomorrow night. But first we thought we’d highlight 10 films from the fest we’ve already seen and loved…

52 Tuesdays (directed by Sophie Hyde)

Winner of the best director award at Sundance (for World Cinema), this heartbreaking Australian drama follows sixteen-year-old Billie, whose path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for to transition to from female to male, and their time together becomes limited to Tuesdays. And this emotionally charged story isn’t just set over a year of those Tuesdays, but it was actually filmed over the course of a year—once a week, every week, only on Tuesdays. 

Appropriate Behavior (directed by Desiree Akhavan)

Desiree Akhavan’s debut feature offers up the story of a young woman (Akhavan herself) struggling to become a tall order of a trio: An ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual, and a hip, young Brooklynite.  While the film could have easily ventured into a sort of feature length version of “Girls” (if Lena Dunham was a bisexual and Persian, that is), it develops a true voice of its own in Sundance breakout Akhavan, who tackles an intersection of identity with a somehow charming mix of humor and desolation (give this woman whatever she wants for her follow-up!). 

The Dog (directed by Alison Berg and Frank Keraudren)

John Wojtowicz was turned into something of an iconic figure when Al Pacino played him in 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon.” In that film, Wojtowicz took a bank hostage in the hopes of raising money for his transsexual lover’s sex change operation, hardly exaggerated the actual 1972 event, but only captured one piece of a much larger story. That’s why its so great we have “The Dog,” Alison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s documentary about Wojtowicz in the years leading up to his death from cancer in 2006. A festival circuit hit since it debuted in Toronto last year, it’s definitely one to catch at Frameline if you haven’t seen it yet.

The Foxy Merkins (directed by Madeleine Olnek)

Madeleine Olnek continues the absurdist tone of 2011 Sundance highlight “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same” with the “The Foxy Merkins” — a wacky tale of two lesbian prostitutes (Jackie Monahan and Lisa Haas, the latter of which so-wrote the film with Olnek) who work the streets of New York City. One is a down-on-her-luck newcomer to the scene; the other is a beautiful (and straight) grifter who’s got things down. Their adventures are bizarre and offbeat and probably not for everyone, but they sure did work for me: We found “Merkins” to be downright hilarious.

Lilting (directed by Hong Khaou)

Ben Whishaw stars in this devastating film about a young man who, in mourning the death of his boyfriend, decides to try and build a relationship with said boyfriend’s Chinese mother (a remarkable Pei-pei Cheng). Except she both doesn’t speak English and didn’t even (officially, at least) know that her son was gay. Continuing a trend in this year’s LGBT films in dealing with ideas of finding human connection and intimacy during moments of hardship (see “Love is Strange,” “The Skeleton Twins” and “Jamie Marks Is Dead” — all of which, like “Lilting,” premiered at Sundance), “Lilting” marks the extremely promising debut of UK-based director Hong Khaou, who will definitely leave your heart significantly melted with his first feature film.

Salvation Army (directed by Abdellah Taïa)

A semi-autobiographical tale of a young Moroccan man navigating his sexuality (among many other things), “Salvation Army” is the directorial debut of Taïa, and is based on his own eponymous novel. Structured in a diptych, the first half of the film follows a teenaged Abdellah (Said Mrini) as he struggles with the social codes of Morocco. The second half, meanwhile, finds a young adult Abdellah (Karim Ait M’hand) on a scholarship in Switzerland, negotiating a whole new set of codes as a queer Moroccan man in Geneva. The two halves come together to create a subtly powerful (and gorgeously shot) film about both what it’s like to be a queer person in the Arab world, and to be a queer Arab person in the Western world. More here.

Something Must Break (directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark)

“Something Must Break,” the latest from Swedish filmmaker Ester Martin Bergsmark, centers in on the androgynous Sebastian (Saga Becker), whose painful transition into female alter-ego Ellie collides with a romantic interest in Andreas (Iggy Malmborg), a down-and-out punk who can’t resist Sebastian’s advances but assures he is “not gay”. The result is a gritty but heartfelt portrayal of chaotic love in modern day Stockholm. More here.

Songs For Alexis (directed by Elvira Lind)

“Songs For Alexis” follows two teenagers — Ryan and Alexis — as they struggle with being different in suburban American.  Alexis’s parents severely disapprove of her relationship with Ryan, a transgendered musician, which forces her to choose between her family and the man she loves. A coming of age story unlike anything you’ll see in mainstream narrative cinema, this documentary is as lovely as it gets. More here.

To Be Takei (directed by Jennifer Kroot)

At 76 years old, George Takei has managed an impressive transition from being known best for playing Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series and movies to becoming a poster boy for LGBT rights and a considerable internet sensation (he has nearly 6 million Facebook followers) thanks to his very popular memes. And now, Takei has his very own documentary to highlight that journey (among other things) and continue to confirm how endearing a figure he really is. Jennifer Kroot’s “To Be Takei” follows Takei and his husband Brad as they navigate their lives together in Los Angeles, intermittently stepping back to discuss Takei being forced into Japanese-American internment camps as a child, his time on “Star Trek,” and how he challenged the status quo for Asian actors. More here.

The Way He Looks (directed by Daniel Ribeiro)

Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro’s “The Way He Looks” is a thoughtful, optimistic and incredibly heartwarming coming of age drama. Following blind teenager Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) as he falls in love with Gabriel (Fabio Audi), the film is refreshingly more about Leonardo’s independence than his sexuality.  Which all makes for something very well observed and endlessly sweet, with Ribeiro essentially making it impossible not to root for the boys in his film.  Rightfully winning awards left and right (including the Teddy Award at the Berlinale), “The Way He Looks” is definitely a safe bet at Frameline.

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