Before the Press Conference, a Great Film Festival and Two Films, Vito & Kyss Mig, That You Must Watch
“She was naked on Mission street.”
“Hi. Can I join your conversation?”
“Of Course. I’m Eliote.”
“I’m Emelina. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi, Sarah. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi, Ryan. Emelina, It’s nice to meet you.”
“We were just telling dirty stories about the San Francisco streets,” Eliote told me jokingly.
“There was this girl walking bear foot on mission street. I couldn’t believe it,” Sarah chimed in.
After I signed myself in on the first floor of the Castro Theatre, I walked upstairs, got myself some coffee and introduced myself to a group of people who I heard mention “naked women”: Eliote, Sarah and Ryan. The dialogue above isn’t exact, and I’m not certain that Sarah and Ryan were their actual names, but Eliote’s name stuck with me. I thought it unique for a woman to be named Eliote.
I enjoyed the social aspect while we were all waiting for the press conference to begin. I also met this young woman, Lares Feliciano, who has a short animation in this year’s Frameline film festival, and I met a young man, maybe his name was Steve. He came to the press conference on behalf of a documentary organization to initiate collaboration with Frameline.
Eliote Durham, Frameline’s event producer, told me that this was her fourth year at Frameline and out of all of the film festivals she has experienced, Frameline has been the only one where every movie she saw impacted her. The way in which she said it, I could tell that she wasn’t blowing smoke up my ass, trying to pump up Frameline, but she was being sincere. That was a powerful statement to make that didn’t resonate with me right away. After I saw the early screenings of the documentary, Vito, and the film, Kyss Mig, I understood what she meant.
Witnessing glimpses of Vito Russo’s life, his involvement in the history of the gay rights movement and the impact he made, exhilarated me. I felt empowered. Although I wasn’t born during the beginning of the gay rights movement, it’s part of my history too, and watching Vito jolted me. The documentary reached its hand into my heart and grabbed it, pumping it to life, charging my passion for activism and connecting me to my history in a way that nothing else has.
Towards the end of the film my eyes began to tear, and then my heart. It was a full body experience. I felt the silence in the theater, heightened by the tears of the people around me. I knew that they were experiencing this documentary in the same way that I was.
When the credits came on the screen, I wanted to sob. I mechanically, and slowly brought my coffee cup to my mouth, trying to even my breath as I took in each gulp. I imagined what it would look like if I hugged a stranger and sobbed in their arms. I didn’t, but I felt the solidarity in the room. I felt connected to the strangers around me, connected by our tears and our experiences that elicited this strong emotional reaction from watching our lives on the screen.
Kyss Mig, a Swedish lesbian film, initially with the storyline of the “straight” woman with a fiance falling for the lesbian, moved me just as Vito did. I felt a shift in my energy. When the film ended, I felt lighter, happier and fulfilled, not just about the film, but about myself. I felt fulfilled and excited about my life. As I exited the Castro Theatre and walked outside onto the sunny, but windy, streets of San Francisco, I felt empowered. Both of those films gifted me with this sense of inner strength.
When I was watching Kyss Mig, I forgot that I was watching a lesbian film. It was very much a lesbian film, revolving around the love between two women, but when I watch queer films, I know they are queer films. That theme is apparent to me while I’m watching the movie. What I mean by this is that a lot of films are very campy, making the gayness of the film almost as important as one of the characters or the storyline. And if they’re not campy, there is still something in the storyline, or the acting or the way that the film is made that doesn’t allow me to forget that I’m watching a gay movie and be enveloped by the storyline.
When I was watching Kyss Mig, I wasn’t watching a movie. Instead, I was given the opportunity to watch these people’s lives. It felt real. It felt like it could be my life. Seeing a lesbian and bisexual woman not being portrayed as queer people, but just as people, that was powerful. Out of all the queer films I have seen, Kyss Mig is my favorite. Not only was it made extremely well, but for the first time, I saw myself genuinely portrayed on the screen.
When I left the Castro Theatre, I not only understood what Eliote said about Frameline being the only film festival where each film impacted her, but I felt it.
For anyone in the Bay Area, I recommend you attend the Frameline Film Festival this June 14 – 24. Held in San Francisco and Berkeley at the Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater, Victoria Theatre and Rialto Cinemas, Frameline presents queer feature length films, shorts, documentaries and animation, representing 30 different countries, as well as the categories: First-Time Feature Filmmakers, Asian Films, Black/African Films, Latino Films, Middle Eastern Films, Music, Theater and Dance Films, Youth Films and Activism Films.