The Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival from 16 to 26 June hosted around 400 film industry guests doing business. This mostly involved parties with free alcohol. I attended with fellow Queer Screen programmer David Pearce, scouting films for Queer Screen’s queerDOC and the 2006 Mardi Gras Film Festival.

The festival, which turned 29 this year, is the largest and oldest of its kind in the world -“ that’s 268 films in less than two weeks. These highlights don’t even begin to express the exhaustion of those 11 days.

Day One The marathon began with a rather jetlagged Australian odd couple -“ David and me -“ pushing past the serious queue for organic popcorn at the historic Castro Theatre on opening night. Gay Californian assemblyman Mark Leno revved up the crowd, unleashing San Francisco’s special brand of anti-Bush sentiment as opening night briefly became a political rally.

C?D’Azur, a frothy French family romp, opened the festival. Suspicion that their son is gay sends his family into a series of riotous sexual misadventures and sent the audience into fits of laughter.

Day Two David and I parted ways on Day Two and barely saw each other for the rest of the festival. We divided in an impossible attempt to cover as many movies as possible, each of us averaging three sessions a day.

Day Three Highlight of the day was the world premiere of San Francisco’s Screaming Queens: The Riot At Compton Street Cafeteria. This documentary uncovers an event local transgender historian Susan Stryker describes as the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment, pre-dating Stonewall by three years.

When one of the local gutter girls at Compton’s threw her coffee in a pushy officer’s face, a free-for-all spilled onto the street and sent many a heavy handbag flying, heralding the beginnings of transgender activism in San Francisco and positive changes in policing policies. Stryker, a regular visiting scholar to Sydney, will attend Mardi Gras Film Festival 2006. It’s a film not to be missed.

Day Four The Queermation animated shorts program delighted everyone with the exquisite Dreaming Is For Moonrise and Shira Avni’s animated elegy to two men with Down’s Syndrome. However, Tom Petter Hansen, the Swedish director of Lonely 15 (about a young man who starts a Small Is Beautiful campaign), stole the show with his very brief introduction: I just want to inform you all that Lonely 15 is not autobiographical. I do not have a small dick.

Transparent, one of more than 40 films at the festival under the umbrella Gender Splendor, interviewed 18 FTMs, all of whom had given birth to children, revealing that Mum is often a gendered title harder to shake than the rest.

Day Five The festival boasted films from 33 foreign countries. Australia was clearly considered very foreign indeed. The Australian short film program Return Of The Antipodeans translated as Return of those people from the other side of the world. On Day Five those strange people from Down Under wowed the San Francisco audience all over again.

Day Six Do It Yourself -“ New Youth Films brought us the documentary In My Shoes-“ Stories of Children With LGBT Parents revealing some incredibly articulate young advocates and future leaders of the LGBT community.

Day Seven Two films stood out from the crowd on Day Seven. Zero Degrees Of Separation charted the extraordinary lives of two gay Israeli-Palestinian couples whose relationships were deeply affected by the occupation in Israel, with director Ellen Flanders expertly fielding a complex array of questions from the audience.

The world premiere of BOTH sold out. One of the first narrative films to deal with the issues that affect intersex individuals, BOTH introduces a fearless stuntwoman who unexpectedly uncovers her gender history. The film received a standing ovation.

Day Eight Day Eight brought lesbian vampire comedy Bollywood-style into being with Desiree Lim’s Some Real Fangs.

Day Nine The Journey, a love story between two young women in rural South India, was made to broaden the perspectives of lesbian love in India. ASL sign language interpreters worked the Q&As for all subtitled sessions and The Journey was one of the liveliest.

Day Ten Rest!

Day Eleven Fending off that lurking festival flu, I dragged myself to closing night’s highly anticipated Transamerica starring Desperate Housewives‘ Felicity Huffman as a pre-op transsexual who discovers she has as a son. Transamerica received a spontaneous standing ovation and the Audience Award.

Closing night finished off the San Francisco Pride weekend, by which time the film festival had clocked up more than 66,000 attendances. It’s truly the mother of all LGBT film festivals but watch out for Mardi Gras Film Festival 2006.

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