Recent Comments


    A Mixed Bag of LGBT Shorts and Features at This Year’s San Francisco Independent Film Festival

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The San Francisco Independent Film Festival will take place February 8–18, 2024, at the Roxie and the Balboa theaters as well as online. There will be half dozen features and shorts by, for, and about LGBTQ folks, including Finding Lucinda, a documentary about non-binary singer-songwriter Avery Hellman, aka ISMAY, who goes on a road trip for inspiration, and Matter of Mind: My Parkinson’s, about three Bay Area subjects with the disease,codirected by out filmmaker Laura Green.

    Here is a rundown of two narrative features and four shorts that will be screening at this year’s fest.

    In the Meantime (February 13, 8:45 pm, Roxie) is writer/director Nicholas Anthony’s modest, engaging drama about Max (Bronte Charlotte) a “messy,” would-be writer who does not have a job or a girlfriend, but she does have a crippling inferiority complex. Her despair is compounded as her best friend and roommate Emma (Domenica Garrett) as well as Caroline (Olivia Belamir), an old acquaintance from university, have a series of successes. The film, shot in luminous black-and-white (with a few color scenes), depicts Max’s quarter-life crisis over the course of a year. She struggles professionally with a thankless admin job she gets, and personally, reconnecting with her ex, Jordan (Antoinette Tracey). She also goes on a date with a guy, Phillip (Alexander Lloyd), and reluctantly attends parties with Emma. Max mostly copes with her malaise by sitting in the bathtub, loitering in a record store, and drinking wine. Her droll observations and interactions will amuse anyone who identifies with her, though Max will annoy viewers who don’t appreciate her “failure” qualities. Still, Charlotte wears her emotions on her sleeve, telling Emma what she feels during a fight, or saying all the wrong things while trying to attract a cute barista. In the Meantime is a slight film that, like Max, is a little rough around the edges, but it has its charms.


    Unfix (February 9, 8:45 pm, Roxie)tackles important issues including conversion therapy, self-harm, suicide, bullying, and more. Unfortunately, writer/director Graham Streeter’s film plays these serious topics for unintentional laughs. Ari (Zane Haney) is still grappling with the aftereffects of gay conversion therapy from when he was 11 and his father made him the poster boy for being “fixed.” Since then, he been romantically involved with Ava (Zoë Papia). Now, decades later, the couple are having financial problems. When they take in two teens, Jon (Damon McKinnis) and Max (Noah Toth), during the pandemic, things come to a head. Ari is secretly participating in surrogate partner therapy to cure his panic attacks brought on by same-sex socialization. And Max, who is studying to be a therapist, of course, is his surrogate. They meet secretly in a motel room to consensually touch each other while dressed. Meanwhile, Ari suspects something is going on between Ava and Jon because he sees them touching hands one afternoon. The connection that is revealed is not shocking, because viewers know the truth that is being kept from Ari. But watching the emotionally overwhelmed Ari strip naked, grab a gun, and have a meltdown is more risible than dramatic. The actors are overly earnest, which adds to the inadvertent hilarity. This crudely made film is well-intentioned, but is so bad it’s almost good. That said, Unfix cannot be unseen.

    The Knowing (in the Four Stories shorts program, February 10, 12:15 pm, Roxie) is an ambitious dramatic short about Adam (Jack Perry) whose HIV+ ex, Peter (Deon L. Jones, Jr.), lies dying in a hospital room. Meeting Cherie (Me’lisa Sellers), Peter’s friend who is in the military, Adam has a conversation with her that involves memories—some depicted in flashbacks—but also raises some uncomfortable truths that rock Adam’s world. The Knowing provides honest observations about Black families, faith, as well as issues of shame, lies, and denial that resonate even if the filmmaking is a bit amateur.

    At Lucy‘s Last Night

    At Lucy’s Last Night (in the Bay Area Stories and Storytellers shorts program, February 10, 4:30 pm, Roxie)is a cute romantic drama about two recent college grads, the gay Petey (Joshua Bippert), and the straight Zach (Joshua Michael Payne) who grapple with their feelings the morning after a hookup at a party. When Zach returns Petey’s phone, the guys smoke weed and try to tamp down the feelings each has for the other. Can a relationship work out? Writer/director Ethan Roberts teases out the answer but has fun as each guy monologues about their desires.

    Panic Attack (available online February 8–18) has Alex (Laurence McCann) experiencing anxiety as he ventures out into the world as a transman. Episodes of him being misgendered on a bus or trying to use a men’s bathroom are juxtaposed with him in the safer space of his bath. This sensitive short captures the emotional rollercoaster Alex endures thanks, in part, to McCann’s delicate performance.

    Day Jobs (available online February 8–18) has Stevie (Stevie Wain), a struggling, newly out comedian with stage fright, trying to make money nannying to pay rent to her ex, Jason (Jaren Kassebaum). There is a deadpan episode with Stevie interviewing for a job, and later apologizing for her bad behavior. She also unexpectedly rekindles a relationship with her ex, Scarlett (Becca Buckalew), who now has a baby. Day Jobs chronicles Stevie’s journey of empowerment, which involves getting out of her own way, but this uneven short features more cringy moments than amusing ones.

    For tickets and more information, visit

    © 2024 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” He teaches Short Attention Span Cinema at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and is the moderator for Cinema Salon, a weekly film discussion group. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on January 25, 2024