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The Most Captivating Films of Frameline

Frameline41 Op-Ed

From queer British history to repressed Brooklyn sexuality to Whitney's tortured life, the San Francisco LGBT film festival covers it all.

This week, Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, kicks into high gear, an experience that draws filmmakers and fans from around the globe.

With over 150 diverse screenings, panels, and parties in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, this gathering allows people to experience our "Genre Queer" festival -- one that highlights the expanding representation of the marginalized LGBTQ community. As the publications manager for Frameline41, I've had the honor to serve the festival in its fifth decade of existence. While working closely with the films (sourced from 19 countries), I was further educated about the oppression and persecution that have plagued our community throughout history -- both in the United States and abroad.

Of course, there's a ton of amusing and uplifting experiences in our lineup, but given the divisive cultural rifts of modern day, I wanted to highlight some films that highlight the diversity and momentum of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community, even as our fellow Americans are denied basic rights, while others are molded into their respective society norms.

The Lavender Scare: In 1953, the government was in a panic over "commies and queers." When newly elected President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order barring homosexuals and other so-called sexual perverts from working in the federal government, it ushered in an era that led to mass firings and ruined lives. But as this documentary shows, it also inspired a new generation of activists. Josh Howard's powerful film makes sure we don't forget this lamentable time in history.

Whitney: Can I Be Me: As a 16-year-old in East Orange, N.J., Whitney Elizabeth Houston was already on the cusp of international stardom. She told her best friend, Robyn Crawford, "Stick with me, and I'll take you around the world." And that's just what she did. With fame came devastating setbacks, not just in the form of her well-documented struggle with drugs, but also due to a deeply racist and homophobic industry that forced the singer to discard her true self and adopt an impossibly pristine public persona.

Carol Support Group: This satirical short -- from Advocate video director Allison Tate -- showcases melodramatic mutiny in a 12-step meeting of people addicted to the film Carol. The eight-minute comedic homage to Todd Haynes's masterful lesbian love story is as much a love letter to the fans as it is to the film. The film includes a diverse group of "Carolholics," including Gillian Cameron, a transgender actress playing a cisgender character. Carol Support Group offers camp, drama, and film references galore. Here's an exlcusive clip from the film.

Beach Rats: A few subway stops from some of the most vibrant gay areas in the country exists a community in Brooklyn that is unaccustomed to the recent social progress we've achieved in the U.S. This tale of repressed sexuality has been lauded by critics.

Against the Law: On the other side of the pond, our brothers and sisters were also facing targeted discrimination in the 1950s, for which this powerful mix of biopic and documentary uses the story of gay rights activist Peter Wildeblood to explore this forgotten era of English history.

Alabama Bound: As the first openly gay representative in Alabama, Patricia Todd serves as the lone voice of the LGBTQ community in the deeply conservative state. Meanwhile in this doc, lesbians face the courts to demand legal protections for their families.

At Frameline, we believe that the exhibition and dissemination of LGTBQ film are crucial to creating a dialogue to transform our interconnected communities.

Frameline41 occurs June 15-25 throughout the Bay Area.

JEFFREY HARTINGER is a writer and lives in San Francisco. Visit his website or follow him @BuffaloGuyinSF.

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Jeffrey Hartinger