Mike Skiff's documentary "Folsom Forever" observes scrupulous leash laws.
They say that queer is dead and the new face of the LGBT movement is a marriage license.
That's well and good—especially for our first Pride month without Prop 8 on the books—but we'd be lying if we said we didn't miss the days of the leatherclad kinksters. Just a smidge. Luckily, Frameline—San Francisco's annual LGBT film festival, now in its 38th year—has us covered.
This year's lineup includes movies about marriage equality, LGBT celebrities (including a documentary about George Takei), and AIDS testimonials, but Frameline isn't afraid to shine the rainbow spotlight on the wild, the kinky, and the intentionally un-mainstream too. Here's our viewer's guide to the best of the once and future fringe festival:
Wham, Bam, Mr. Pam
What It Is: The story of how one woman became the most prolific creator of gay male porn in San Francisco.
Why It Matters: Some of the most high-profile gay porn is made by one queer woman. Who knew? Not director Nicolas Kazamia, apparently. "You had these magazines like Juggs and Leg Show in the '80s that were edited by an umbrella group of gay men and by this one woman, Pam Doré. And these became the most popular fetish magazines of the decade. How the hell did that work?" Good question. Lucky for everyone there's a movie about it. These days Doré directs gay male porn with her production company, Naked Sword. We won't even pretend to be surprised.
What It Is: A history of Folsom Street's kink scene, from the furtive leather bars of the '70s to the full-frontal street fair of today.
Why It Matters: Because director Mike Skiff is not going to let the Man keep him down. "The gay community doesn't want the Leathermen representing them. They're trying to look as normal as possible and they think we're perverts. Just a few decades ago the laws said they were perverts too." Folsom Forever gives a serious, Ken Burns-style look at the assles chaps crowd. "There's plenty of naked willies," Skiff assures us, "but it's about history, culture, and sex-positivity."
Sticks & Stones
What It Is: Transgender daredevil Bambi Lake takes us on a tour of Polk Street and reminisces about her career as a hustler.
Why It Matters: Lake was such a transgender pioneer that it bordered on dangerous. She used to dance in straight strip clubs to audiences who were none the wiser. "That landscape is fading away, and Bambi is a living legacy," says director Silas Howard, who insists that he's fine with the neighborhood changing—just as long as people remember. During post-production Howard got a call from a public defender saying Lake was in jail again but wanted to know how the film was coming. She's still got it, folks.
Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy
What It Is: An adaptation of San Francisco comedian Alec Mapa's one-man show about adopting a son, complete with poop jokes.
Why It Matters: Though married with a child, Mapa doesn't feel the need to stop cracking wise about anal sex. "Straight comedians who become parents can keep working blue, but gay comedians are expected to clean up their act so people don't accuse them of being unfit parents," says director Andrea James. "This is the gay family you'll never see on Modern Family." From Mapa's act: "My son is the only man in LA who can call me 'Daddy' and not giggle."
Pussy vs Putin
What It Is: As measured a look at Pussy Riot's conflict with Vladimir Putin as any movie with the word "Pussy" in the title could be.
Why It Matters: Even if you want to trade queer punk civil disobedience for family life in the Oakland hills, it's worth remembering that some countries are still on the frontlines of culture clash—whether they like it or not. Even the Texas GOP doesn't look quite so bad by comparison.
All Frameline films begin screeing today.