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    More LGBTQ-Themed Picks for the 2022 SF International Film Festival

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The 65th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) opens today, April 21, and runs through May 1 at venues around the Bay Area. There are a handful of features, documentaries, and short films by LGBTQ filmmakers or featuring LGBTQ themes. Here are a few to catch at the fest.

    Having its World Premiere at the SFIFF is Jeannette, director Maris Curran’s inspiring observational documentary profile of Jeannette Feliciano, a queer Puerto Rican woman who was one of the survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre. The aftermath of the tragedy lingers as Jeannette has survivor’s guilt and experiences social anxiety. She gets emotional during her boot camp workouts at the gym where she works as a trainer and trains for bodybuilding competitions that she herself enters. Her mental health issues are compounded when her sister, Leila, and her wife are impacted by Hurricane Maria destroying Puerto Rico, where Leila lives. (Jeannette makes a trip to help out the couple.) However, even at her most self-pitying, Jeannette always comes across as an appealing, resilient woman, one who is surrounded by friends and family who love her—her relationship with her son is especially warm. Jeannette finds that motivating others is easier than motivating herself, but Jeannette makes viewers root for its subject the entire time.

    The compelling Brazilian import, Private Desert,is a romantic drama that keeps its lovers apart for most of the film. Director/cowriter Aly Muritiba develops his story slowly, following Daniel (Antonio Saboia in a phenomenal performance), for a good half hour before the opening credits appear. Daniel is a policeman who is in trouble for assaulting a recruit during training. He is caring for this ailing father with some help from his younger sister, Debora (Cynthia Senek), who to Daniel’s surprise, is dating a woman. Frustrated with his situations at work and home, and because his internet girlfriend, Sara, has been ghosting him ever since he sent her a nude photo of himself, Daniel drives across the country to find her. In his search, Daniel meets Fernando (Thomas Aquino), who says he has information on Sara. As Daniel uncover the truth about his love, his view of the world changes. Private Desert is sure to recall an Oscar-winning film from thirty years ago, but Muritiba forges his own way, crafting a gritty and powerful queer drama that is full of raw emotion as it unfolds.

    Wet Sand, by director/cowriter Elene Naveria, is a melancholic drama about difference in a small village on the Georgian Black Sea. After Eliko (Tengo Javakhadze) takes his own life, his granddaughter, Moe (Bebe Sesitashvili), arrives to put his affairs in order. She meets Amnon (Gia Agumava) and unexpectedly discovers that he was Eliko’s lover—a fact hidden from the villagers. Meanwhile, Fleshka (Megi Kobaladze), who works at Amnon’s bar, named Wet Sand, is mocked by the male villagers; even the local cop, Alex (Giorgi Tsereteli from And Then We Danced), tells Moe that Fleshka “is in the wrong body.” But Moe sees a kindred spirit in this outsider, and when Fleshka kisses Moe impulsively one day, it oddly deepens their connection. Other secrets soon emerge that shift the thinking of Amnon and Fleshka as well as the villagers, and a letter Eliko wrote before his death is heartbreaking. Naveria captures the gentle rhythms of the lives of these characters who live in a remote area where prejudice is commonplace. The performances come across as very natural, and the beachfront setting provides an interesting crucible for a sensitive story about homophobia.

    The various Shorts Programs include five LGBTQ films. The two best are in Shorts Program 1: Nasir,a documentary codirected by and about Nasir Bailey, about his transition from female to male. As Nasir calls relatives to tell them about his plans, he also talks about getting an empowering haircut, or, as a young girl, creating a potion to prevent her breasts from growing. This intimate documentary about self-acceptance and the acceptance of others is quite moving. Similarly, My Parent, Neal is director Hannah Saidiner’s poignant animated documentary that chronicles the experiences of the filmmaker’s transgender parent. As Neal talks candidly about sexuality and gender identity, top surgery and being misnamed, the short becomes quite life-affirming.

    Shorts Program 2 offers Isn’t It a Beautiful World, an experimental queer film that uses lip-synching and archival sound as well as striking images that cut together to create a narrative on shared trauma. Shorts Program 3 features Holding Moses, a Bay Area Voices film, about the queer non-binary parent Randy whose son, Moses, has a genetic condition. Moses forces Randi to reconsider notions of love and family, as he teaches Randi how to love him. Short Program 6, which showcases Family Films, includes Mama Has a Mustache, a lively animated short about kids and their gender non-confirming, non-binary, and trans parents.

    For tickets and more information, visit

    © 2022 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 21, 2022