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    Films Both Queer and Worthwhile at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2023

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The 66th San Francisco International Film Festival opens April 13 with a screening of Stephen Curry: Underrated, a documentary about the Golden State Warriors point guard, and closes April 23 with Boots Riley’s I’m a Virgo, which stars Jharrel Jerome as a 13-foot-tall Black man in Oakland. In between there are dozens of films worthy of attention.

    There are a trio of features that depict trans characters.

    Something You Said Last Night is an auspicious debut by trans femme filmmaker Luis De Filippis about Ren (Carmen Madonia), a young, unemployed transwoman on vacation with her younger sister Sienna (Paige Evans), and their parents, Mona (Ramona Milano) and Guido (Joe Parro). De Filippis captures the family dynamics through shrewd, claustrophobic framing and scenes that present the characters in both intimate and intense moments. Something You Said Last Nightimmerses viewers in these characters’ lives and their minidramas, and the dialogue reveals how the ties that bind sometimes strangle.

    Peafowl, from South Korea, has Myung (Chois Hae-jun) returning home to the countryside to attend her homophobic father’s funeral. Estranged from her family, she sets out to claim her inheritance hoping to pay for her gender-reassignment surgery.

    The San Francisco International Film Festival will also give audiences the opportunity to see L’Immensità prior to its May theatrical release. Set in 1970s Rome, this drama has Clara (Penélope Cruz) navigating life with her three children. The eldest, Adriana (Luana Giuliani), is dressing and identifying as Andrew and his behavior prompts whispers and disapproval. However, Andrew finds his strength in asserting his masculinity without shame or fear. Giuliani is terrific capturing Andrew’s internal conflict, and Cruz is, as expected, divine.

    Two documentaries also feature queer content. Hummingbirds, about two best friends—filmmakers Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía “Beba” Contreras, in Laredo, TX—and Joan Baez: I Am a Noise, a documentary portrait of the singer/activist that includes her struggles with anxiety and depression. Baez is expected to attend the screening.

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    In addition, out gay filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng presents his new documentary, Invisible Beauty, about the groundbreaking career of Black fashion model and activist Bethann Hardison.

    The various shorts programs include a quartet of queer films: And Then I Was Here, about a genderqueer parent; No More Longing, about a musician starting testosterone; The Melting Creatures, about a transwoman and her daughter; and How to Carry Water, which showcases the “Southern, queer, non-binary, fat photographer and artist,” Shoog McDaniel.

    One noteworthy event is an award for documentarian Mark Cousins, who will present his films, The March on Rome, about a Mussolini’s rise to power and the legacy of fascism, and My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock, which examines the filmmaker’s life and work through film clips and commentary.

    Other honorees at the fest include Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, who will screen their film The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,and Mary Harron, whose film Dalíland, about the surrealist artist (Ben Kingsley), will have its U.S. premiere.

    The beauty of a film festival is the opportunity to watch films that might never be shown elsewhere. Here are a half-dozen non-LGBT titles to consider:

    Against the Tide isa lovely documentary about two friends who are fisherman in India. One seeks quick money through dangerous business; the other tries to prevail the old-fashioned way.

    Bad Press is a galvanizing documentary about the trials and tribulations of Mvskoke Media journalists who are fighting for freedom of the press, something not guaranteed to Tribal nations.

    Daughter of Rage, from Nicaragua, is an absorbing drama about a young girl living with her mother in poverty who ends up working for a couple (Noé Hernández and Diana Sedano) who might be able to provide her with a better life.

    Two films from Mexico depict men being coaxed out of their ruts. Love & Mathematics is a charming, offbeat quasi-romance about Billy (Roberto Quijano), a once-famous singer befriending his new neighbor, Monica (Diana Bovio), while Martinez has the set-in-his-ways, 60-something title character (Francisco Reyes) fighting against retirement. This deadpan character study features strong performances from Reyes and Humberto Busto, the young employee who is hired to replace Martinez.

    And lastly, another film with a local connection, Freemont, is a luminously shot (in black and white) low-key comedy-drama about Donya (Anaita Wali Zada), whose boring life gets a boost when she gets promoted at the fortune cookie factory where she works. But it is her connection with a mechanic (Jeremy Allen White) that really gives her a new outlook on life. 

    For tickets, showtimes, and additional information, visit

    © 2023 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.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on April 6, 2023