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UCSC professor and author Bettina Aptheker recalls the Frameline International LGBT film festival, which showed in San Francisco this summer.
By Bettina Aptheker
WE FIND ourselves in Sweden. A gay couple is on the waiting list to adopt a baby. They have been approved as parents. They receive a letter. A boy, age 1.5, is arriving. The men are ecstatic, although one of them is still a bit apprehensive about this whole adoption idea. They outfit a nursery. The "baby" arrives on a Friday afternoon. He is 15, a troubled teen released from a reformatory, and to say that he is homophobic is to put it mildly. The men assume there has been a mistake, and intend to fix it come Monday morning. The mistake, however, turns out to have been a typographical error in the letter awarding adoption. So begins Patrik, Age 1.5, a 2008 release from Sweden, directed by Ella Lemhagen. We saw it at the Castro in San Francisco in late June at the 33rd annual Frameline International LGBT Film Festival. It was a terrific film, poignant and hilarious. We hope you get to see it in Santa Cruz.
Another film, Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement, was a documentary about a New York lesbian couple that had been together for 42 years when they decided to travel to Canada to get legally married. Thea had MS, and the film charts her deterioration as the disease progresses. As much as this was a story about death and dying it was also about life, love and commitment. Thea had passed away earlier in the year, but Edie was in the audience, and came forward with co-directors Greta Olafsdottir and Susan Muska to a standing ovation.
A local crowd favorite was an experimental film by San Franciscan Cary Cronenwett titled Maggots and Men. It was about the Kronstadt uprising of Soviet sailors in 1921 in a failed attempt to reclaim the socialist dream. It was filmed on a set built in friend's backyard, in black and white, brilliantly interspersed with archival footage. The actors were trans men, and the film drew a parallel between revolutions, one for socialism and one for the free expression of gender and sexuality. We found ourselves unexpectedly and profoundly moved, my heart filled with compassion for the vision of what might have been, and what we can still make.
Especially powerful were a series of short documentary films from Malaysia, Cuba, Sarajevo and Taiwan, each depicting the struggle for basic civil rights. We saw 25 films between June 18th and 27th. In addition to those already described, films came from Argentina, France, Israel, South Africa, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany and Australia, among others. Films from the Latina/o, African American and Asian American community blended cultures and themes of racism and homophobia with the quest for gender and queer liberation.
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Being in the audience at the Castro was as powerful as watching the films. Discussions with directors, producers and/or actors were an added dimension creating a powerful sense of community. As Pride Sunday neared, the streets in and around the Castro overflowed with thousands of people in vibrant costumes and colors. It was an awesome experience for someone like me, raised in the dense homophobia of the 1950s.
Whatever your own gender and/or sexual bent, I urge you to check out Frameline, support its efforts and enjoy the festival next year: www.frameline.org.
Bettina Aptheker is a professor of feminist studies at UCSC and author of 'Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became a Feminist Rebel.'
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