Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, the world’s largest and longest-running LGBTQ+ film festival, concluded its 47th edition on Saturday, June 24, entertaining over 55,000 moviegoers, including streaming, representing a 25% increase on Frameline46 in 2022.
The festival concluded with a screening of Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music, directed by Oscar-winning duo Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet). The documentary feature about the titular performer’s singular spectacle was preceded by the Festival’s annual award ceremony where Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren’s 20,000 Species of Bees and Julie Cohen’s Every Body were among the honorees.
The 11-day Festival ran from June 14–24, 2023, with events held in theaters across San Francisco, including the historic Castro Theatre, located in the heart of the city’s LGBTQ+ cultural district, and the Roxie Theater, Frameline’s longest-running partner theater. Frameline47 also returned to Oakland, a filmmaking hotbed in recent years, featuring the festival’s first-ever Oakland Opening Night (Jac Cron’s Chestnut) and Centerpiece (Hannah Pearl Utt’s Cora Bora, starring Meg Stalter) films, both of which screened at The New Parkway Theater. This year’s slate presented upwards of 90 in-person screenings and programs and featured essential queer films from Bay Area locals and international filmmakers alike. The festival’s Streaming Encore began on June 24 and runs through July 2, 2023, and features roughly two-thirds of the in-person programming where highlights include Jason Karman’s coming-of-age and coming out feature debut Golden Delicious; Merle Grimme’s keen exploration of labor exploitation, colorism, and intersectionality in Clashing Differences; and Sav Rodgers’ equally incisive and intimate documentary Chasing Chasing Amy, a behind the scenes look at the Kevin Smith film that it shares its name with.
“No matter the metric, Frameline47 was a resounding success,” said James Woolley, Executive Director of Frameline. “We are proud to be California’s largest film festival, and the achievement means all the more because we are a celebration of queer cinema. Despite the changing moviegoing landscape, Frameline embodies the resilience of the larger LGBTQ+ community. We’ve not only adapted, but grown. Seeing that realized in numerous sold-out Castro Theatre showings was truly remarkable.”
Always with a focus on its San Francisco roots, the Opening Night film, the Sofia Coppola-produced Fairyland from Andrew Durham and starring Emilia Jones and Scoot McNairy, began the festival on a note both celebratory and intimate. Bolstered by a lively Q&A, passionate audience, and the music of the Castro Theatre’s beloved organ player David Hegarty (a Castro staple since 1983), Opening Night proved filmgoers’ desire to return to in-person showings. “Moments like Opening Night illustrate our organization’s power in the queer community — the power to build empathy and mutual understanding, and to find moments of joy,” says Nguyen Pham, Frameline’s Director of Philanthropy. “Not only is Frameline an authority in this space, but we take our responsibility seriously. At this moment, sharing queer cinema is life-changing — and life-saving — work, and it’s something we undertake together.”
Among the many films that captured moviegoers’ attention were Andy Vallentine’s queer ensemble film, The Mattachine Family, which was attended by stars Nico Tortorella and Cloie Wyatt Taylor; the high-spirited late-night screening of Sébastien Marnier’s queer Hitchcockian thriller, The Origin of Evil; the sold-out, Queer Premiere of Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott’s Bottoms — a teen sex comedy starring Sennott and Ayo Edebiri that filled the Castro Theatre with laughter for its whole 92-minute runtime — and Jordan Danger’s celebration of all things drag God Save the Queens, which kicked off SF Pride Weekend with an appearance by the film’s star, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Alaska Thunderfuck 5000. “We set out to share stories of queers thoughtfully critiquing our past, shaping our future, finding joy and sometimes behaving badly like all humans. We hoped the Festival slate would reflect this profound multiplicity — and it did,” says Allegra Madsen, Frameline’s Director of Programming. “It’s so gratifying to not only see these equally important strands of queer life and community presented together, but to know these stories resonated so deeply with our Frameline47 audience.”
The Juneteenth community screening block, Local Legends, featured an in-person appearance by the iconic Jewelle Gomez, the subject of Madeline Lim’s Jewelle: A Just Vision, as well as the World Premiere of Belonging: Trans Indian Story, Amir Jaffer’s documentary which centers Kinnar trans immigrant woman Anjali Rimi. Famous faces appeared throughout the program: drag stars Alaska and Flame both performed live, while Rock Hudson and the Indigo Girls appeared on screen as the subjects of Stephen Kijak’s Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed and Alexandria Bombach’s It’s Only Life After All, respectively. However, Frameline47 also spotlighted unsung heroes, from poet and activist Nikki Giovanni (Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project) to the Shine Louise Houston-hosted Debi Sundahl Double Feature, which centered the titular filmmaker and renowned sex educator.
Steering to awards, the recently announced 2023 Colin Higgins Youth Filmmaker Grants have provided a staggering $45,000 in funding to three talented filmmakers: Daisy Friedman (As You Are), Karina Dandashi (Cousins), and Emilio Subía (Ñaños). These grants are generously underwritten by the Colin Higgins Foundation, which is named after the late Colin Higgins, the acclaimed screenwriter and director responsible for such classic films as Harold and Maude, 9 to 5, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Frameline is also committed to supporting queer and trans filmmakers at other stages of their careers. Presented during the Festival, the Out in the Silence Award, which provides $5,000 to the selected filmmaker, honors an outstanding film project that highlights brave acts of visibility, especially in places where such acts are rare and unexpected. This year, Frameline honored Babatunde Apalowo, the director of the Nigerian gay romance All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White.
Here is the complete list of awards from the 47th Frameline Festival.
Outstanding First Feature Award
For over 20 years, Frameline has presented the annual juried Outstanding First Feature Award to a notable narrative feature from an emerging voice in LGBTQ+ cinema. Since 2020, Frameline has partnered with the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle to jury this award. This year’s winner is as follows:
Outstanding First Feature ($2,500): 20,000 Species of Bees directed by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren
Honorable Mention for First Feature: Big Boys, directed by Corey Sherman
Additional Juried Awards
In addition to the annual juried award for Outstanding Documentary Feature, Frameline recently introduced two new juried awards for short films: Outstanding Narrative Short and Outstanding Documentary Short. This year’s winners are as follows:
Outstanding Documentary Feature ($2,500): Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project directed by Michèle Stephenson & Joe Brewster
Honorable Mention for Documentary Feature: Every Body directed by Julie Cohen
Outstanding Narrative Short ($750): The Cutest and Funniest Animals in the World directed by Renato Sircilli
Outstanding Documentary Short ($750): Ob Scene directed by Paloma Orlandini Castro
Frameline47 Audience Awards
Voted on by Frameline47 audience members, the Audience Award winners for 2023 are as follows:
Narrative Feature ($1,500): The Origin of Evil directed by Sébastien Marnier
Documentary Feature ($1,500): Who I Am Not directed by Tünde Skovrán
Photo: Barack Shrama for Frameline