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Frameline Directors Talk the World's Longest-Running LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Frameline Directors Talk the World's Longest-Running LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Fairyland and the Castro Theater

The San Francisco-based festival is a staple of Pride month and a hub for queer cinema.

San Francisco's Frameline is the longest-running LGBTQ+ film festival in the world, and it's now back for its 47th year. Dubbed Frameline47, the 11-day event runs from June 14 to June 24th, with tickets for non-sold out screenings available now at

The festival will host 47 screenings at the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco, with more screenings taking place at other venues across the Bay Area, including The New Parkway theater in Oakland. In total, Frameline will present 127 films, including 24 world and US premieres.

We had the chance to talk with Frameline's Director of Programming Allegra Madsen and Executive Director James Woolley about the event, its lineup, and the importance of queer cinema in this charged moment.

What follows is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

In spite of COVID-19 and the changing theater landscape, Frameline47 is expanded from previous festival years. Can you talk about the importance of having this in a physical location and focusing on in-person screenings?

James: It's so important to us that audiences gather together and see films communally. It just makes the experience so much more special. A comedy is so much funnier when everyone's laughing, and a drama is so much more impactful when everyone around you is really feeling the emotions. We also love the ability to present films with directors and actors in person so that the audience can hear from them and be able to ask questions themselves. And we want the visiting filmmakers to have a full audience. We want as many people as possible in that theater. It's just important, the cinema experience.

We're doing 47 screenings this year at the Castro Theatre for our 47th birthday. And I have to say it's amazing; it's the best venue anywhere on Earth to debut a queer film. It has such a history of importance for queer cinema. And the audience is really what makes it. They're so vocal. They love to cheer and boo and hiss, and sing along if it's that kind of movie. They're just so engaged and so amazing. Filmmakers always come away from it saying that was one of their best screenings they've ever had anywhere. And so we're so thrilled to be able to present 47 programs of that this year, you know, 47 programs that filmmakers are going to walk away being like, that was the best that I've ever had.

You guys have some big special guests coming in for some of these screenings, including Alaska the drag queen and Taylor Mac. What was it like getting them involved in this and incorporating them into the program?

Allegra: It's great to get these big names to the festival and just enjoying queer cinema with us. It goes a long way to build our community and bring us all together, especially in this sort of political moment where a lot of our communities are under direct, physical, legislative threat. I think it's so important for us to come together in these spaces and celebrate all of the identities under the queer umbrella. And, you know, having the support of some big names is not unhelpful.

You talked about this moment, and obviously it's an important one. In Frameline47's lineup, are there any particular films that you think are important in terms of speaking to this moment?

Allegra: You know, if you ask me as the programmer, I'm gonna say all of them. But I'm really excited to showcase Kokomo City [dir. D. Smith], which is an amazing, fresh documentary about Black trans sex workers that really highlights the utter strength of these folks. And I'd also point to Mutt [dir. Vuk Lungulov-Klotz] as a really fresh, new take on trans cinema. And like, I think these two are kind of emblematic of a new push in not just trans cinema, but cinema in general. And these are films that are made by trans people and telling modern, new trans stories.

Also, I'd throw in Chasing Chasing Amy [dir. Sav Rogers], which takes a moment from the '90s when we first started to explore identity in narrative film [and asks] like, how do we deal with our problematic past, and what if that past helped make you who you are? There's also a thread about insisting that our bodily autonomy is a fundamental right. And that's brought up in the documentary Who I Am Not [dir. Tünde Skovrán], and also a world premiere at The New Parkway, M Is For Mothers [dir. Lívia Perez], it's really just these moments of like, this is my body and these are the decisions that I can make for it.

Frameline has announced a new Colin Higgins Youth Foundation Grant, and you'll be awarding the 2023 recipients. Can you put a spotlight on that initiative and what it's going to do for these young LGBTQ+ filmmakers?

James: I'll say that Colin Higgins was an amazing writer and director. You'd know him for [directing] 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, also with Dolly Parton, amongst many other films. But he was an out writer/director at a time when it wasn't necessarily easy to be so, and sadly did pass away from HIV/AIDS in 1988. So with his estate, they did ensure that money every year would go towards the next generation of queer filmmakers. And it's Frameline's moment now to assist in handing out these awards.

And what we've done is selected three people under 25 who each will be able to get $15,000, who will then be able to use this money for their career to get started. And we've picked some incredible young filmmakers that we're so excited about: Daisy Friedman, Karina Dandashi and Emilio Subia. We're going to basically have them here the entire festival, so they're going to get to experience all of Frameline at its best. Their films are all going to screen during the festival. And then on the very final screening, we're going to be handing them out the awards and making sure that they receive their cash prize. So it's an amazing opportunity. We're so proud to partner with the Colin Higgins Foundation. And we hope that this is the beginning of a really long path forward with our two organizations, and we can do this every year.

Have you faced any challenges putting together this 11-day event in and around San Francisco?

Allegra: San Francisco has been heavily impacted by the last two years, and we are actively rebuilding. And I think in a way that maybe other cities may have had a bit of an easier time with it than San Francisco has. But I'm trying to look at it as an opportunity to really rebuild San Francisco in the image that we want it to be. I think that something that hasn't been touted nearly enough about the city is that it is actually a cinema city. We have an amazing roster of festivals here. There [are] a lot of productions that come out of here, like our opening night film Fairyland is a San Francisco story. And you know, when you travel the world, San Francisco is like a homing beacon for the queer world. And Frameline is very much the gold standard in queer cinema on a kind of global level. And at this moment, I think it's a time that we can really shout that a lot louder.

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