Frameline Film Festival
Frameline is a nonprofit media arts organization that produces the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, the oldest ongoing film festival devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) programming currently in existence. Frameline's mission statement is "to change the world through the power of queer cinema".
With annual attendance of 60,000 to 80,000 it is the largest LGBT film exhibition event in the world and it is the most well attended LGBT arts event in the San Francisco Bay Area. The 39th annual festival will be held June 18 to 28, 2015 at the Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater, and Victoria Theater in San Francisco, as well as additional venues in the East Bay.
In June 2014, the organization named Frances Wallace as its Executive Director. Previously, Wallace had worked with Frameline for over a decade as the Director of Strategic Partnerships & Senior Programmer.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Persistence of vision
- 1.2 The First San Francisco Gay Film Festivall
- 1.3 The Oldest But Not the First
- 1.4 The Second San Francisco Gay Film Festival
- 1.5 The Third San Francisco Gay Film Festival
- 1.6 The Fourth San Francisco Gay Film Festival
- 1.7 Michael Lumpkin
- 1.8 The Fifth San Francisco International Gay Film Festival
- 1.9 Frameline's First Lesbian Riot: Twice a Woman
- 1.10 Frameline Distribution
- 1.11 The Sixth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay film festival
- 1.12 The Seventh San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festivall
- 1.13 Frameline Audience Awards
- 1.14 The Eigth San Francisco international Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
- 1.15 Frameline in the 1980s - Part 1
- 1.16 The Ninth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
- 1.17 Aids and Frameline
- 1.18 Making connections
- 1.19 The Tenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festivall
- 1.20 The Frameline award
- 1.21 Frameline's Second Lesbian Riot: Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax)
- 1.22 The Frameline Completion Fund
- 1.23 The Eleventh San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
- 1.24 The Twelfth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
- 1.25 Frameline and the New Queer Cinema
- 1.26 The Thirteenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay film Festival
- 1.27 Frameline in the 1980s - Part 2
- 1.28 The Frameline Festival Trailer
- 1.29 The Fourteenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
- 1.30 New Faces/New Directions: Tom DiMaria and Mark Finch
- 1.31 Frameline Beyond the Festival - More Programs, More Right Wing Attacks
- 2 Awards
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Persistence of vision
Both the festival and Frameline trace their roots to January 1977, when a "rag-tag band of hippie fags" (in the words of co-founder Marc Heustis) formed a group they called Persistence of Vision. Their stated goal was to "provide a forum for our art and at the same time provide a pool of talent, energy and equipment to help each other". Historian Susan Stryker and others have noted that the founders of the group, Heustis, Ric Mears, Wayne Smolen, Berne Boyle, Greg Gonzalez, Billy Miggens, Daniel Nicolletta and David Waggoner, were inspired by the activist ideals of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s, and by Harvey Milk’s campaign to become the nation’s first elected gay official. Many of the participating filmmakers took their footage to Milk’s camera shop on Castro Street for development. Nicolletta and Waggoner both worked there.
The First San Francisco Gay Film Festivall
On February 9, 1977, at a long-gone gay community center at 32 Page Street in San Francisco’s Western Addition, the members of Persistence of Vision staged a "Gay Film Festival of Super-8 films” that is now recognized as the first edition of the oldest and largest gay film festival in the world.
According to Stryker, the organizers of that first San Francisco festival “plastered the city with handbills announcing the free screening of their work, and the event succeeded wildly. Two hundred people crowded into a room meant to accommodate a hundred twenty-five, and a hundred more were turned away at the door. ... In spite of the film splices breaking repeatedly and an unpopular no-tobacco-smoking policy, the response to the first festival was overwhelmingly favorable". Three repeat screenings were held on March 13, June 22 and October 26.
Those early screenings, Stryker wrote in a 2001 Twenty fifth-Anniversary history of the festival, "...had a decidedly homegrown ambiance, tending to feature short films made by the organizers themselves. The documentaries reflected contemporary gay concerns like Anita Bryant’s campaign to push back gay-rights protections in Florida. Some films explored more artistic and experimental themes, while others simply celebrated gay sexuality".
The super 8 movies shown that first year included Miracle on Sunset Boulevard by Marc Heustis (starring Silvana Nova), A Bicentennial Film by Ken Ward, A Woman One Day by Cleve Jones, Changes by Billy Miggins, The Blow Job by Ric Mears, T.K. Perkins, David Waggoner and Stephen Iadereste, and The Assassination of Anita Bryant, a “symbolic comedy, non-violent, of course,” by Berne Boyle.
The Oldest But Not the First
Contrary to local legend the 1977 event in San Francisco wasn't the world's first gay film festival. That title goes to a "Festival of Gay Films" staged in Australia by the Sydney Filmmaker's Co-op in June 1976. However, that was a one-time event. The Australian Film Institute founded The “Gay and Lesbian Film Festival” that became the direct precursor to today’s Mardi Gras Sydney Gay Film Festival two years later, in 1978. Which leaves the San Francisco event, with its 1977 debut, as first in the US, and the oldest continuous annual Gay Film Festival in the world.
Marc Heustis also remembers that first San Francisco festival for a film that wasn’t shown. He and the other organizers rejected an early film by Rob Epstein, who would go on to become one of America’s most accomplished gay filmmakers and to win two documentary Oscars for The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads. According to Heustis, the jurors felt Epstein’s film, which featured shots of his lover John Wright washing himself in a bathtub intercut with images of their cat grooming herself on a windowsill, "wasn’t gay enough". Fortunately Epstein, who confirms the story, would return to screen many other films in later festivals, while Wright would end up playing a major role at Frameline as a board member and assistant festival director from 1982 through 1985.'
The Second San Francisco Gay Film Festival
On June 22, 1978, Persistence of Vision presented the second San Francisco Gay Film Festival – a single evening of super 8 movies – at another vanished gay community center at 330 Grove Street (now the site of the city’s Performing Arts Garage).
The move to June presaged the festival’s future role as one of the City’s premiere annual gay pride events. In addition to repeat screenings of Blow Job (now billed as a POV group effort) and The Assassination of Anita Bryant, the second festival featured Daniel Nicoletta’s Dancing is Illegal (with The Angels of Light), Basket Case by Marc Heustis, Sunday Afternoon by David Waggoner, Mouse Klub Konfidential by Jim Baker, Early Patterns by Ric Mears, and Narcissus Lingerie-Screen Test of Lawanda Rose and How to Cook a Plantain Properly by Berne Boyle.
The Third San Francisco Gay Film Festival
1979 marked a number of turning points for the now “annual” festival. The organizers expanded the program to three days, moved the screenings out of the Gay Community Centers and into the Roxie Cinema and Lumiere Theater, showed the festival’s first works in the new video format (prompting the temporary addition of "video" to the festival name), and included work by filmmakers from outside the Bay Area – including Long Beach, Staten Island, and Kansas City – for the very first time.
But out of all the historic firsts that year, two stand out: the 1979 festival was the first to screen works by lesbian filmmakers, and the first presented under the group’s new name: Frameline.
Some things stayed the same: it was the third festival in a row to feature a film called Blow Job, this time a new short by San Francisco’s Tim Stirton. Other titles included You Just Love Your Children by Jeff Lunger and Ritch James, Five Minutes, Ms. Lenska by Thomas Gaspar, Breaking by Doug Haynes, WHITE JUSTICE: A Case of Diminished Capacity by Lowell Williams and Joegh Bullock, Kahala by Karen Harding and Sara Banks, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions by Geoff Leighton, Olivia Records: More than Music by Anita Clearfield, Dyketactics and Sappho by Barbara Hammer and Mason’s Life by New York Gay Film Festival founder Peter Lowy.
Unfortunately, putting on the growing festival was taking its toll on the newly renamed but still all-volunteer group. As the original founders began to burn out and drop out, those left behind issued a plea for new recruits to help with the next festival. Two San Francisco State graduate film students, Paul Bollwinkel and Michael Lumpkin, were among those who answered the call.
The Fourth San Francisco Gay Film Festival
The fourth festival Bollwinkel and Lumpkin helped to stage in 1980 included screenings at the Roxie, the South of Market Cultural Center and the San Francisco Art Institute’s Canyon Cinematheque. Highlights included Wedding of the Year: Chuck and Vince by Christine Wynne, a portrait of a gay wedding that was way ahead of its time, and an experimental film by Wayne Justice called Roger: The Death of Wayne described as “The conflict between the personalities and sexualities of a young man who was run over by a bus and came back to life and died in a bowling accident.” Other memorable titles included Greta Schiller’s Greta’s Girls, Susana S. Blaustein’s Susana, John Canally and Marty Monroe’s Nuclear Family and Honey Lee Cottrell’s Sweet Dreams.
But the fourth festival is perhaps best remembered for being the first to include a film from outside the USA (Denmark’s “Bogjavlar/Damn Queers”), and for bringing Michael Lumpkin to Frameline.
Lumpkin, a native of Longview, Texas, had co-founded a student gay rights group called The Denton Gay Alliance as an undergraduate film student at North Texas State University (NTSU), and had already been presenting gay-themed films on campus at San Francisco State, where he was pursuing a graduate degree in film. At Frameline he immediately started looking for ways to raise the festival’s profile and expand the audience for gay films – and not just in San Francisco. Before 1980 was over he would travel to Philadelphia and New York to stage screenings of the fourth festival program under the Frameline banner – an experiment that would never be repeated. But Michael was just getting started.
He would spend most of the next 30 years turning the little festival into a world-class event and keeping it going through right wing attacks, economic downturns, internal strife and times of tragic loss. In the process he would play a key role in the growth of a new LGBT Cinema, the emerging visibility of queers and queer culture, and struggles over gay rights and artistic expression that would echo from the Castro Theater to the Halls of Congress.
The Fifth San Francisco International Gay Film Festival
By the time the fifth festival opened in June 1981 Lumpkin had dropped out of State and assumed the title of Festival Director (an unpaid volunteer position – he also took a job at Wells Fargo Bank to pay his bills). Lumpkin moved the Frameline “office” into a desk in the bedroom he shared with his lover, Mark Page, and recruited Page and their roommate Gary Rorick as volunteer board/staff members. Rorick would design the fifth festival poster (and the 6th). He and Page laid out the fifth festival catalogue on the kitchen table of their Castro Street apartment – using blue pencils, rubber cement and x-acto knives in those pre-computer days.
But the DIY nature of their efforts didn’t keep Lumpkin and the rest of his new Frameline colleagues from dreaming big. First Lumpkin added “International” to the festival’s title. Then he announced that the fifth edition would include screenings at one of the city’s largest venues, the landmark Castro Theater, for the very first time.
The Castro has been the festival’s primary home ever since (though screenings have continued at the Roxie and other venues). But back in 1981, there was no guarantee gay films could fill such an enormous theater. Taking the festival there was seen as a gutsy move on Lumpkin’s part.
As Stryker wrote in 2001, “Although the Castro Theatre had become a fixture of local queer film culture by the late 70s, long-time Castro programmer Bob Hawk notes that ‘moving the Festival there required a leap of faith’. The Castro's 1,500-seat capacity was five times the size of Roxie Cinema, where the Festival had played the year before, and could swallow the combined audiences of all previous festivals. Rising to the challenge, Lumpkin produced a festival designed to pack the house – not just for one night as in earlier years, but for a whole week.”
With film historian Vito Russo acting as Master of Ceremonies, the Fifth festival opened at the Castro with the world premiere of Greetings from Washington DC, a documentary filmed at the 1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights directed by Lucy Winer and produced by Winer, Rob Epstein, Frances Reid and Greta Schiller. According to Stryker, “the addition of gala opening night festivities, where viewers could meet celebrities, pointed towards the Festival's future as a red-letter event on San Francisco's cultural calendar".
Over the next five days the Festival presented both features and programs of new independent shorts, including films by Arthur Dong (Public), James Broughton (Hermes Bird), Doug Haynes (Common Loss), Barbara Hammer (Our Trip), Donna Grey (After the Game) and now-celebrated British filmmaker Terence Davies’s early masterpiece, Madonna and Child.
Lumpkin revealed his interest in exploring the history of Lesbian and Gay representation in the movies by including rare screenings of Leontine Sagan’s Maedchen in Uniform (Germany, 1931) and Melville Webber and J.S. Watson Jr.’s Lot in Sodom (USA, 1933), and by bringing Russo back to the Castro stage to present his Celluloid Closet lecture and clip show before an enthusiastic crowd. Stryker called it the festival’s “indisputable highlight.”
Lumpkin also justified the fifth festival’s new International title by presenting a number of films from outside the USA. European titles included French director Phillippe Vallois’s We Were One Man (the handsome Vallois thrilled the Castro audience when he took the stage, setting a precedent for personal appearances at the festival), and three films from the Netherlands.
Two of those Dutch films, Paul de Lussanet’s Dear Boys and Nouchka van Brakel’s A Woman Like Eve were hits with Frameline’s expanded audience. But the third, George Sluizer’s Twice a Woman, was another story.
Frameline's First Lesbian Riot: Twice a Woman
Starring Anthony Perkins and Bibi Andersson in a convoluted story of romance and deception, Twice a Woman sparked Frameline’s first “Lesbian Riot” when its manipulative narrative and violent climax caused the mostly female audience in the Castro Theater to erupt in outrage – even though the festival program had explicitly warned them what to expect. The angry women howled as the credits rolled. Then they poured into the lobby to confront festival staffers, demanding to know why the offensive film had been included in the festival, and who had programmed it. They also called for more lesbian inclusion in Frameline, which they denounced as a group dominated by white men.
Page, who was on the screening committee that year, recalls that most if not all of the men who previewed Twice a Woman actually voted against including it. But the women, citing international superstar Andersson’s presence in the lead role and the paucity of Lesbian images of any type on screen, were unanimous in insisting it be shown, a fact the angry lesbians in the audience – who were convinced a man was responsible – didn’t know.
Nor did they know that many of the reforms they were calling for at Frameline were already being put in place.
Lumpkin, who had been a member of an informal “men’s auxiliary” to The Denton Women’s Liberation Union during his undergraduate days at NTSU, had already been working to make the festival more inclusive of Lesbians. He had been aggressively recruiting gay women to join Frameline as volunteer staff/board members (including Chris Olson, Sue Mitchell and Susan Passino) and members of the Festival screening committee (including local businesswoman Kathy Nelsen, Liz Stevens of Iris Films and filmmaker Honey Lee Cottrell). He had also made a point of programming as many works by women as he could find. Barbara Hammer even recalls Lumpkin showing up on her Oakland doorstep one morning to personally solicit more of her films.
The "riot" pushed Lumpkin and his colleagues to ramp up their vital outreach to the women’s community. It also inspired them to take an important step in the festival’s evolution into a truly inclusive event by adding “Lesbian” to the title of 1982’s sixth edition for the very first time.
But Twice a Woman wasn’t the only film in the 1981 Festival that ended up expanding Frameline’s horizons.
Michael Lumpkin was packing up the print of We Were One Man to ship it back to Phillippe Vallois in Paris when it hit him. Sending the only English subtitled print of a wonderful gay film back to France made absolutely no sense at all (especially in the days when getting a print of a “gay” film through US Customs wasn’t always easy to do). So why not keep the print and act as the film's US distributor? Michael called Phiilippe to get his ok. He said yes, and on that day in 1981 Frameline Distribution was born.
Other titles soon joined Vallois’ feature in Frameline's catalogue, starting with Denmark’s Bogjavlar/Damn Queers. Under directors of distribution Mark Finch, Nancy Fishman, Desi del Valle, Moira King and others Frameline Distribution has expanded in the years since to include hundreds of films and videos from around the world.
In 2012 Frameline began offering many of its titles through Frameline Voices, a free online channel dedicated to “showcasing diverse LGBT stories with an emphasis on films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.”
The Sixth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay film festival
Adding Lesbian to its title wasn’t the only innovation Lumpkin and his crew – now including John Wright in his first year as Assistant Festival Director – came up with for the festival’s sixth edition in 1982. They also expanded the programming to six days, presented Frameline’s first screenings in the East Bay (at the Pacific Film Archives), and, not surprisingly, scheduled more programs for women than ever before.
Opening night featured another champagne reception in the Castro mezzanine, followed by a rare screening of Natasha Rambova and Charles Bryant’s Salome (1922) with Bob Vaughn at the Castro organ, and Vito Russo in an on-stage conversation with Making Love screenwriter Barry Sandler on “Hollywood’s entrance into Gay Cinema”.
Other highlights of the year included tributes to Iris Films and Barbara Hammer, a benefit work-in-progress screening of Out of Order, the documentary project that would evolve into Rob Epstein and Richard Schmeichen’s The Times of Harvey Milk, Kenneth Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle retrospective, and new films by Ulrike Ottinger (Madame X, An Absolute Ruler), Ron Peck (Nighthawks), Alexandra von Grote (Depart to Arrive), and Rosa von Praunheim (Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts).
The 1982 festival also presented the first of two exhibitions of lesbian/gay photography curated by a subcommittee that included Greg Day, Clare Wren, and Marshall Rheiner, and introduced a series of side bar festivals of works on video curated first by John Canally, and later by Daniel Mangin.
Outside the festival, 1982 marked the debut of Frameline Presents a one-hour video anthology program broadcast every other Thursday on San Francisco cable station 25, and of a Frameline-sponsored film and video class at San Francisco City College on the history of lesbians and gays in cinema.
The Seventh San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festivall
1983’s seventh festival opened at the Castro with a rare revival screening of Anders Als Die Anderen (Different From the Others), Richard Oswald’s 1919 German silent that is believed to be the first to tell a gay story on film, followed by the local premiere of Tuija-Maijs Niskanen’s The Farewell (Finland, 1980).
The following days brought a tribute to James Broughton, three more films from Terence Davies, Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (USA, 1983), Eloy de la Iglesia’s The Deputy (Spain, 1980), Barbara Hammer’s Audience (which includes a cameo appearance by Lumpkin working the Roxie Box office at the sixth festival) and Wieland Speck’s The Sound of Fast Relief (West Germany, 1982) – just a selection from an expanded seven day festival offering more films and videos than ever before.
Frameline Audience Awards
The seventh festival’s most enduring innovation came with Lumpkin's introduction of a new Audience Award for Best Feature and the presentation of the first award to Lizzie Borden for Born in Flames. (Borden had already gone home so the award was actually "presented" a few months later when Lumpkin and Mark Page hand delivered it to her in New York.)
By the time the eighth festival came around Lumpkin had added categories for favorite documentary and short. Frameline audiences have been casting their votes ever since. The Awards are announced at the closing night party, usually after a frenzied last minute count of the final ballots, led for many years by Rick Solomon, one of Frameline’s most stalwart and indispensable volunteers.
A complete list of the recipients (along with the winners of the festival’s occasional juried awards) can be found on the Frameline website.
The Eigth San Francisco international Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
1984’s Eighth Festival brought another growth spurt with an expanded ten-day program, and more films than ever from around the Bay Area and the world.
Lumpkin’s imaginative opening night program paired the west coast premiere of Mauvaise Conduite (Improper Conduct), legendary cinematographer Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jimenez Leal’s powerful documentary on the plight of gays in Castro’s Cuba, with a revival screening of Kuro Tokage (The Black Lizard), Kinji Fukasaka and gay icon Yukio Mishima’s 1968 intense Japanese drag noir.
International films screened in the following days ranged from Susan Lambert’s On Guard (Australia, 1983) to Margarethe von Trotta’s The Second Awakening of Christa Klages (West Germany, 1978) and Reinhold Schuenzel’s Viktor und Viktoria (Germany, 1933). US and West Coast premieres included Amos Gutman’s Nagua (Drifting) (Israel, 1983), Phillippe Vallois’ Rainbow Serpent (France, 1983), Djalma Limongi Batista’s Asa Branca – A Brazilian Dream (Brazil, 1982) and Antonio Gimenez-Rico’s Vestida de Azul (Dressed in Blue) (Spain, 1983).
Local filmmakers featured in the Eighth festival included Curt McDowell (Sparkle’s Tavern, Stand By), Cathy Zheutlin (Lost Love) and Artie Bressan (Pleasure Beach).
Frameline in the 1980s - Part 1
As Michael Lumpkin pushed to expand the SFILGFF in the 1980s, Frameline's all-volunteer staff and board struggled to keep up. So Lumpkin set out to remake Frameline into an organization strong enough to sustain the festival’s growth – to transform it from an all-volunteer organization, where board, staff and volunteer were one and the same, into a professionalized non-profit with a board and a paid staff (still supplemented by scores of volunteers). These efforts would pay off with the hiring of Linda Farin as Frameline's first Executive Director in 1989.
Lumpkin and the Frameline board also worked through the 80s to develop a reliable funding stream for the organization from a combination of ticket sales, membership fees, grants, sponsorships and donations. Over the decade the growing flow of funds made it possible to move the Frameline office from Lumpkin's bedroom to the basement of 16th Street’s Red Brick Building, and then to the former convent of Notre Dame at 347 Dolores, across from Mission Dolores.
The Ninth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
1985’s ninth festival opened with another of Lumpkin’s odd-couple double bills: Alexandra von Grote’s moving World War II lesbian melodrama November Moon, paired with Pink Narcissus, Jim Bidgood’s delirious late-sixties gay art porn extravaganza.
Lumpkin unleashed more historic psychedelia in Steven Arnold’s 1971 avant-garde classic, Luminous Procuress, featuring San Francisco’s own fabulous Cockettes. Then he explored the emergence of sympathetic, if doomed, gay characters in early 60s British cinema in revivals of A Taste of Honey, The Leather Boys, The L-Shaped Room and Victim.
The ninth festival also featured the San Francisco premieres of Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris’ powerful feminist polemic Gebroken Spiegels (Broken Mirrors), British Icon Derek Jarman’s hypnotic Angelic Conversation, German avant garde hero Rosa von Praunheim’s dizzy ode to expressionism, Horror Vacui, and Elfi Mikesh and Monica Treut’s wonderfully cinematic Verguhrung: Die Grausame Frau (Seduction: The Cruel Woman).
On the non-fiction side, Vito Russo returned to moderate “Documenting a Public Forum”, a “discussion on the growing movement in the Gay community to discover and preserve its past.” A diverse range of documentaries, including Rob Epstein and Richard Scmeichen’s recent Oscar winner The Times of Harvey Milk, Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s Before Stonewall and Lucy Winer’s Silent Pioneers helped Russo to make his point.
Monica Treut’s Bondage added some welcome lesbian S&M spice to the non-fiction stew. Debra Chasnoff and Kim Klausner’s groundbreaking Choosing Children unleashed a rallying cry for a new movement.
But three other documentaries struck a more somber – and perhaps even more historic – note that year: AIDS: Chapter I and AIDS: Portrait of an Epidemic, by Harvey Marks and For our Lives by Michelle Paymar. Together, they mark a turning point as the first of many films about the new plague sweeping the world’s gay communities that would screen at Frameline in the coming years.
Aids and Frameline
The AIDS epidemic took a massive toll on Frameline, as it did on all of San Francisco and communities around the globe. Festival founder Berne Boyle, staff members Gary Rorick and John Canally, board member Howard Sullivan, filmmakers Artie Bressan, Richard Schmiechen, Curt McDowell, Peter Adair and Marlon Riggs, the Roxie Cinema’s Robert Evans, Castro staffer Jeffrey Sevcik and Celluloid Closet author and festival regular Vito Russo are just a few of those Frameline and the local gay film community lost to HIV. Not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of audience members.
The epidemic also had an impact on Frameline’s programs. After the first three AIDS documentaries played the festival in 1985, dozens more followed. Features did too, starting with the very first dramatic film to address the epidemic, Artie Bressan’s “Buddies.” Frameline recognized the film’s importance by showcasing “Buddies” in a world premiere screening at the Castro to benefit the Shanti Foundation in late 1985, and then showing it again in the 1986 festival. It would be decades before Frameline would mount another festival without a film about AIDS.
As Michael Lumpkin began making plans for the tenth festival he took a trip that would change the way he thought about both the festival and Frameline, thanks to a tip from Rob Epstein. Epstein had taken The Times of Harvey Milk to the Berlin Film Festival in 1985. After he got back he urged Lumpkin to check it out. Lumpkin made the first of many trips to Berlin the very next year. The importance of that trip, and of the many others Lumpkin made to Berlin, Sundance, The Toronto Film Festival and other festivals gay and straight in the following years, cannot be overstated. By being an out gay film programmer seeking and promoting queer films, Michael helped to make Lesbian and Gay film in general, and Frameline in particular, key parts of the international film festival scene.
Wherever he went Lumpkin worked to burnish the festival's growing reputation as the premiere showcase for lesbian and gay media – and to lure directors and films to San Francisco. He also developed and maintained key relationships with film professionals around the world that would help the festival to prosper, including a close friendship with a talented young film programmer at the British Film Institute named Mark Finch who would play a major role at Frameline in the 1990s.
Lumpkin’s first trip to West Berlin in 1986 at Epstein’s suggestion was the beginning of it all. The trip had a profound effect on Lumpkin, who came back impressed by the Berlin Festival’s mix of innovative programming and well-organized operations – including events designed to give filmmakers and festivalgoers a chance to schmooze and connect – and its use of awards to celebrate and encourage filmmakers and call attention to their work.
The lessons he learned in Berlin would help him transform Frameline into a truly world class festival over the next few years.
The Tenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festivall
The ten-day tenth festival opened with another champagne reception at the Castro and the introduction of Maria Kellett as the Festival’s new associate director, the “highest ranking” female staffer in Frameline’s history.
The San Francisco premiere of Mexican director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo’s Dona Herlinda Y Su Hijo (Dona Herlinda and Her Son), came next, followed by the first of many retrospective programs in honor of Frameline’s tenth anniversary, a screening of Allan Moyle’s Times Square, which had been a hit at the sixth festival in 1982.
Over the next nine days Lumpkin, Kellett and their team presented hundreds of films and videos at the Castro Theater, Roxie Cinema, Video Free America, and KQED. Highlights included the US premiere of Enrique Dawi’s Adios, Roberto (Argentina, 1985) and the west coast premieres of Orlow Seunke’s Pervola, Sporen in de Sneuw (Pervola, Tracks in the Snow) (Netherlands, 1985), Paul Donovan’s Self Defense (Canada, 1983) and Wieland Speck’s Westler – East of the Wall (West Germany, 1985).
One of the most memorable screenings brought the San Francisco debut of Mala Noche, a first feature by a promising new director named Gus Van Sant, who made one his earliest public appearances in the city at the Castro screening.
Noteworthy shorts included Amy Goldsteins’ Commercial For Murder, Michael Rogowsky’s Sleeping Around, Richard Fung’s Chinese Characters and David Weissman’s Beauties Without a Cause starring local “Beauties” Lulu, Silvana Nova and Tommy Pace.
The repeat screening of Artie Bressan’s Buddies lead the way for a wave of films about AIDS, including Peter Adair and Rob Epstein’s The AIDS SHOW, Marc Heustis’s Coming of Age, Canadian Nick Sheehan’s No Sad Songs and a number of powerful shorts, from Bill Pope’s autobiographical Portrait of a Native Son to Debby Chapnick’s The Hero of my own Life.
AIDS also lent a special poignancy to one of the 1986 festival’s most historic and touching moments when Lumpkin took the Castro Stage to present the first annual Frameline Award to film historian, The Celluloid Closet author, activist, and long time festival friend Vito Russo, who had been diagnosed with HIV in 1985.
The Frameline award
Designed to honor those who have “made a major contribution to LGBT representation in film, television or the media arts”, The Frameline Award has been given at each festival since 1986 to:
1986 Vito Russo
1987 Alexandra von Grote
1990 Robert Epstein
1991 Elfi Mikesh
1992 Marlon Riggs
1993 Pratibha Parmar
1994 Christine Vachon
1995 Marcus Hu
1996 Peter Adair
1997 Channel Four Television
1998 Dolly Hall
1999 Stanley Kwan
2000 Barbara Hammer
2001 The Festival’s Founders
2002 Isaac Julien
2003 Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato
2004 Rose Troche
2005 Gregg Araki
2006 Francois Ozon
2007 Andrea Sperling
2008 Michael Lumpkin
2009 George & Mike Kuchar
2010 Wolfe Video
2011 Margaret Cho
2012 B. Ruby Rich
2013 Jamie Babbit
2014 George Takei
Lumpkin’s presentation of the first Frameline award to the beloved Russo in 1986 was followed by a standing ovation from the Castro audience. Vito then took the stage to present the latest edition of his Celluloid Closet lecture and clip show to the delighted crowd – which rewarded him at the end with yet another round of cheers. But not all of the tenth festival’s programs were so well received.
Frameline's Second Lesbian Riot: Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax)
On Wednesday, June 25, a quiet 6 pm screening of Lesbian shorts at the Roxie unexpectedly erupted into chaos when a non-explicit male-to-male sex scene in Midi Onodera’s Ten Cents A Dance (Parallax) caused the mostly female audience to rise up in revolt. It would become known as Frameline’s second “lesbian riot.”
As historian Susan Stryker noted in her Festival history, “Discontent had simmered for years among some women who felt Frameline paid insufficient attention to lesbian concerns. A film by Canadian-Japanese lesbian Midi Onodera, Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax), became the focus for these long-standing dissatisfactions when it closed a lesbian shorts program one muggy Wednesday evening. As a portion of the film depicted two men having sex in a public restroom, some disgruntled women streamed down the aisles to protest the representation of male sexuality in a lesbian program, while others noisily disrupted the screening. Before the night ended, the Festival's beleaguered staff had been raked over the coals verbally by an angry crowd.”
Kellet and Lumpkin bore the brunt of the anger, which may have been driven in part by the fact that 1986 was a relatively slow year for women’s films. Just two new “Lesbian” features were screened at the festival in `86: Angela Linders’s Mara (Netherlands, 1985), which was only 58 minutes long, and Bruno Moll’s Das Ganze Leben (The Whole of Life) (Switzerland, 1983), which was directed by a man.
Fairly or not, many women blamed Frameline’s male majority for the Festival’s lack of films by and about Lesbians. Seeing male sex depicted in a Lesbian program was all it took to push them over the edge. As author Marc Siegel noted in an insightful 1997 article for Jump Cut, the reaction to Ten Cents a Dance, “cannot be fully understood outside of its festival context, namely that it was screened on a lesbian shorts evening at the Roxie by a festival programming committee already perceived as indifferent to lesbian concerns.”
As Siegel also pointed out, some of the resentment behind the riot had been building up ever since the Festival’s move to the Castro in 1981. “While this shift dramatically increased the festival's scope,” Siegel wrote, “the existence of two very different venues (these are still the two main spaces) also meant films could be divided along a number of axes: feature films vs. shorts, conventional narrative or documentary vs. experimental, films presumed to be of general community interest vs. those for a more specialized audience, and, perhaps most significantly, gay vs. lesbian.”
“The association of lesbian concerns with the smaller, less fashionable venue, the Roxie,” Siegel continued, “came about for a number of reasons. The Roxie is closer to some of the more important women's institutions in the city — the Women's Building, Old Wives Tales Bookstore, and Osento Baths. But, as Stryker notes, since most lesbian filmmakers at the time produced less technically finished products than their male counterparts, their work was already destined for the Roxie, the venue for most experimental work ... these factors combined to create the impression that lesbians were of secondary importance to the festival.”
Lumpkin, Kellett and the Frameline Board knew the women’s concerns had to be addressed if the Festival was to survive as a Lesbian and Gay event. A few months after the riot they sponsored a forum at the women’s building to give the angry women another chance to vent and talk about how Frameline should respond. The feedback confirmed a level of discontent with the festival’s male dominated programming that surprised Lumpkin and the rest of the staff. They had always tried to program every lesbian film they could find. But every year there were more films by and about men than women. The women’s comments taught them that blaming the festival’s gender imbalance on the lack of women’s films – no matter how true – would no longer be accepted. Lumpkin and his team had to become proactive in creating a festival that welcomed and represented women and men on equal terms.
“It was awful at the time," Lumpkin later recalled, "but it was very important because of the changes it brought".
The riot, Marc Siegel noted, succeeded “in motivating Frameline to engage with community concerns about its programming practices. This subsequently resulted in Frameline's greater sensitivity to not only lesbian representation within the festival and within its own organization, but also to its increased concern with minority representation in general. Finally, this level of interaction between audiences, films, and programmers is precisely what marks the lesbian and gay film festival as a community event".
Lumpkin and Kellett knew meeting the women’s demands would be a challenge. But after years of fundraising and development, Frameline’s board and staff were ready to take it on. By 1986 Frameline had achieved a level of financial security that allowed its board to offer Lumpkin a paid position as Festival Director. He accepted, and finally told his co-workers at Wells Fargo Bank goodbye for good.
The now full-time Frameline employee redoubled his efforts to improve the festival and hire more paid staff – including a female co-programmer to help address the need for gender balance that was now one of Frameline’s top priorities. He also started raising funds for a new program he was planning to help ensure his eventual partner would actually have Lesbian films to program: The Frameline Completion Fund.
The Frameline Completion Fund
In the aftermath of the 1986 controversy over the lack of Lesbian representation at the SFILGFF Michael Lumpkin established The Frameline Completion Fund to provide grants to emerging and established filmmakers. According to the Frameline website, “this program seeks to provide a much-needed source of financial contributions to artists who often struggle to secure funding to complete their works. Grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 are available for films that represent and reflect LGBT life in all its complexity and richness.”
The Fund awarded its first grants in 1990. As of 2012 it had given a total of $389,200 to 118 films. A list of every recipient can be found on the Frameline website.
The Eleventh San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Lumpkin’s second trip to Berlin – and his campaign to transform the SFILGFF into the premiere showcase for queer media – paid off big in 1987 with an impressive festival lineup of films and videos from around the world and every continent except Antarctica, topped off by the premieres of not one but three new films by an exciting up and coming Spanish director named Pedro Almodóvar: Sisters of Darkness (aka Dark Habits), What Have I Done To Deserve This? and Law of Desire.
Opening night at the Castro featured the North American premiere of Sheila McLaughlin’s She Must Be Seeing Things (in a screening to benefit the newly created Frameline Completion Fund), followed by the San Francisco premiere of Yves Simoneau’s Canadian feature, Pouvoir Intime.
The diverse program that unspooled over the following days ranged from Sergio Amon’s Aquele Dois and Sergio Toledo’s Vera (both from Brazil) to Rosa von Praunheim’s A Virus Has No Morals, Lothar Lambert’s Desert of Love, Dagmar Beiersdorf’s Wolfgirl (all from West Germany), Yu Kan-Ping’s The Outsiders (Taiwan), Yannick Bellon’s La Triche, Christine Ehm’s Simone (both from France), Takis Spetsiotis’s Meteor and Shadow (Greece), The Sankofa Black Workshop’s The Passion of Remembrance, Hugh Brody’s Nineteen Nineteen (both from Great Britain) to Lionel Friedberg’s Across the Rubicon (South Africa).
Short works in the eleventh festival included Gus van Sant’s Five Ways to Kill Yourself and My New Friend, John Greyson’s A Moffie Called Simon, three Derek Jarman films to songs by The Smiths, Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss’s International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Michelle Parkerson’s Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box, Su Friedrich’s Damned if You Don’t, Sally Potter’s The London Story and Tom Rubnitz’s Drag Queen Marathon and Wigstock: The Movie.
Special programs included “MAINSTREAMING: Lesbian Filmmaking in the 80s”, a panel discussion moderated by Debra Zimmerman of Women Make Movies featuring filmmakers Sheila McLaughlin, Alexandra von Grote, Andrea Weiss, Frances Reid and Barbara Hammer, “BLOOD AND ROSES: Under the Spell of the Lesbian Vampire,” a presentation with film clips by Andrea Weiss, a “Lesbian TV Party” and tributes to Women Make Movies, Alexandra von Grote (recipient of the 1987 Frameline Award) and Marc Huestis.
AIDS continued to impact the festival, which was dedicated to filmmaker Curt McDowell and Frameline board member Howard Sullivan, who both died just weeks before opening night. AIDS-themed films included John Canalli’s Heroes, Michael Aue’s I’m Still Alive: A Person With AIDS Tells His Story, and A Plague on You by Great Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Media Group.
Lumpkin’s planned triple-tribute to Pedro Almodóvar took a hit when the West Coast premiere of Sisters of Darkness” (aka Dark Habits) had to be cancelled at the last minute after the print got lost in transit. But What Have I Done to Deserve This? was a huge hit and the San Francisco premiere of Law of Desire provided the festival with one its most unforgettable closing nights.
Almodovar’s brilliant melodrama brought the sold out Castro Audience to its feet for a standing ovation. Their enthusiastic response and the buzz the screening generated helped to bolster the SFILGFF’s growing reputation as a launch pad for new feature films.
The Twelfth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Frameline’s twelfth festival opened with the enthusiastically received delayed debut of the film that had been held up in transit the year before, Pedro Almodóvar’s Dark Habits, followed by a revival of Geza von Radvanyi’s 1957 version of Maedchen in Uniform starring Romy Schneider and Lilli Palmer.
Other international features in the 1988 festival included Ron Peck’s Empire State and Derek Jarman’s The Last of England (both from Great Britain), Pisan Akarasainee’s The Last Song and its sequel, Anguished Love (Thailand), Stefan Henszelman’s Friends Forever (Denmark), Per Blom’s The Ice Palace (Norway), Karoly Makk’s Another Way (Hungary), Michael Thornhill’s surreal The Everlasting Secret Family (Australia) and Monika Treut’s The Virgin Machine (West Germany).
The fascination with Lesbian vampires continued with a revival screening of Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter from 1936 and the debut of Amy Goldstein’s Because the Dawn (another benefit for the Frameline Completion Fund).
Andrea Weiss returned for two programs: Tiny & Ruby: Hell Divin’ Women, a documentary co-directed with the also returning Greta Schiller, and "A QUEER FEELING WHEN I LOOK AT YOU: Hollywood Stars and Lesbian Spectatorship,” another presentation with clips. Weiss and Schiller also joined Cathy Korniloff, Monika Treut and Barbara Hammer for “Sapphic Celluloid”, a panel discussion on Lesbians on film.
Other special programs included “The Days of Greek Gods”, a look at the physique films made by Richard Fontaine between 1949 and 1962, and a 75th birthday tribute to James Broughton. Daniel Mangin curated a groundbreaking “AIDS Video Symposium”, that included John Greyson’s THE ADS EPIDEMIC (Acquired Dread of Sex) Pratibha Parver’s Reframing Aids, Isaac Julien’s This is not an AIDS Advertisement to Ellen Seidler and Patrick DuNah’s FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES: Facing AIDS in San Francisco.
A moving festival highlight came with the posthumous presentation of the 1988 Frameline Award to the fabulous Divine, with director John Waters taking the Castro stage to accept the award for his longtime friend and muse.
But 1988’s most influential screenings may have come with the debuts of Gregg Araki’s Three Bewildered People in the Night and Juliet Bashore’s Kamikaze Hearts – two anarchic and exciting works that were already pointing the way to the “New Queer Cinema” that wouldn’t get its name for four more years.
Frameline and the New Queer Cinema
In 1992 a wave of well-received Sundance and Toronto film festival screenings of innovative gay-themed works by out LGBT filmmakers would inspire critic B. Ruby Rich to decree the birth of “The New Queer Cinema” or “NQC”. But those straight film fests were just catching up to a movement given birth in the 80s and early 90s in lesbian and gay film festivals like the SFILGFF. Frameline, as the largest and most influential of these festivals, would play a major role in the NQC’s pre-christening rise – and subsequent fall.
Michael Lumpkin's eclectic approach to programming gave the movement’s edgy auteurs the chance to show their work next to filmmakers aspiring to a more mainstream style. As these rival visions played out on screen, Frameline’s ticket buyers never hesitated to make their preferences known. Their passionate and outspoken reactions would help determine the New Queer Cinema’s fate, and shape the future of LGBT film.
The Thirteenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay film Festival
The 13th SFILGFF swept into its teens with an age-appropriate flood of rebellious and hormonally charged works from the filmmakers who were already creating the New Queer Cinema’s first new wave. Trendsetting NQC-ish titles at the `89 festival included Roger Stigliano’s Fun Down There, Isaac Julien's Looking For Langston, Gregg Akaki’s The Long Weekend (O’despair) and John Greyson’s Urinal.
But the NQC wasn’t the only story in 1989. Lumpkin’s opening night program paired the world premiere of Canadian Anne Claire Poirier’s Salut Victor! with a revival of Radley Metzger’s Therese and Isabella (France, 1966). Shusuke Kaneko’s Summer Vacation: 1999 (Japan), Jean-Yves Laforce’s The Heart Exposed (Canada) and Philip Saville’s Wonderland (Great Britain) were among the other new international features that followed over the next ten days.
Ulrike Ottinger’s epic Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia (West Germany) brought the Castro crowd to its feet and emerged as a surprise festival favorite.
Noteworthy shorts included David Weissman’s Song From An Angel, Abigail Child’s Both, Su Friedrich’s Gently Down the Stream, Richard Kwietniowski’s Ballad of Reading Gaol (Great Britain), and Sonja Roth’s Interior Decorator From Hell.
Desire, British director Stuart Marshall’s look at the Holocaust through a queer lens, stood out in the year’s strong documentary roster, as did a program of shorts on the growing protests around AIDS, and Laurens C. Postma’s Derek Jarman: Know What I Mean.
1989’s special programs ranged from “Nelly Toons: A Look at Animated Sissies” introduced by Vito Russo, to a lecture on “the lesbian cinema’s search for a new voice” by Dutch film scholar Annette Förster, a history of lesbian erotica with Susie Bright, a panel on Lesbian/Gay media in the 90s, and programs of new shorts from both John Greyson and Barbara Hammer.
Frameline in the 1980s - Part 2
The late 1980s saw two significant turning points in Lumpkin's on-going dual campaigns to secure a dependable funding stream for Frameline and reorganize its staff - for better and for worse.
In 1988 Frameline received the first of a series of grants from The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The much needed funding was welcomed as a sign of LGBT film's growing credibility. But it came with an unexpected price tag. Over the next few years a culture war over federal funding for "indecent" and gay art would erupt in Congress and on radio talk shows. Frameline's NEA funding would make it a target of the Republican right wing.
In 1989 Frameline welcomed Linda Farin as its first Executive Director - a big step forward for a group that had been all unpaid volunteers just a few years earlier. Lumpkin assumed the title of Festival Director. But making Frameline's expanding payroll wouldn't always be easy.
The Frameline Festival Trailer
As Frameline prepared for the 1990 festival Lumpkin decided try something new: a festival trailer created by poster and program guide designer Tom Bonauro. The result (featuring music by Voice Farm and a cameo appearance by the back of Rex Ray’s head) was a hit with the Frameline crowd and a new tradition was born. Now every year the debut of the latest trailer is an eagerly anticipated event to be greeted with cheers and/or jeers by a festival crowd waiting to weigh in on the relative merits of each annual offering.
All of Frameline’s past trailers can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3CF0E0C357FC8D0D
The Fourteenth San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Frameline's 14th festival opened with Bonauro's trailer, followed by the North American Premiere of a film that was both a historic first, and an equally historic last: Heiner Carow’s Coming Out, the first gay film made in communist East Germany, and the last, since it opened in Germany on the night the Berlin Wall fell.
1990’s opening night also brought the West Coast Premiere of Nocturne, a British TV movie directed by Joy Chamberlain and starring Lisa Eichhorn, which Mary Wings described as “a new benchmark for Lesbian film.”
Highlights among the year’s other new dramatic features included I Am A Man, M.L. Bhandevanop Devakul’s Thai version of “Boys in the Band”, Miguel Picazo’s Spanish nun melodrama, Extramuros, Erik de Kuyper’s sword and sandal art epic, Pink Ulysses, Beeban Kidron’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Anette Apon’s Crocodiles In Amsterdam.
Lumpkin’s exploration of queer cinema history continued in a “script to screen” retrospective of films inspired by Jean Genet featuring Genet’s own Un Chant D’Amour and three films based on his work: Vic Morrow’s Deathwatch with Leonard Nimoy, R.W. Fassbinder’s Querelle with Brad Davis and Jeanne Moreau, and Joseph Strick’s The Balcony with Shelly Winters, Peter Falk, Lee Grant and Nimoy.
The lesbianesque women’s prison classic Caged got a revival too, along with Prisonnieres and Scrubbers, two even more outrageous if less well known `80s takes on the genre.
The 14th festival also hosted “Rules of Attraction: A Conference on Lesbian and Gay Media.” Organized by Liz Kotz, the ambitious and innovative symposium explored topics ranging from “Feminist Theory/Lesbian Media: Rethinking Sexual Representation” to “AIDS and Media: Strategies for the 90s.”
The year’s AIDS films were showcased in a Phil Zwickler-introduced side bar festival called “AIDS: The Passionate Mission”. Titles screened included Rosa von Praunheim’s Silence = Death, Praunheim and Zwickler’s Positive, John Greyson’s The World is Sick (sic), and Catherine Saallfield and Zoe Leonards’ Keep Your Laws Off My Body.
Other special programs included a tribute to 1990 Frameline Award recipient Rob Epstein, a marathon screening of shorts by East Village videographer Tom Rubnitz, and a trio of works dedicated to exploring African American Gay life featuring Marlon Riggs’ transformative and influential Tongues Untied.
But no screening that year was more memorable, or received a more enthusiastic standing ovation from its cheering Castro crowd, than the West Coast Premiere of another film on Black Gay life: Jennie Livingston’s thrilling, provocative and moving documentary on the Vogueing scene in New York City: Paris is Burning.
New Faces/New Directions: Tom DiMaria and Mark Finch
The 1990 festival introduced two newcomers who would go on to play major roles at Frameline in the early 90s: new Executive Director Tom DiMaria and Associate Director/Distribution Manager Mark Finch.
Historian Susan Stryker, writing in her 25th Anniversary Festival History, gives DiMaria major credit for pushing Frameline to become a truly inclusive organization. “When Tom di Maria stepped into the Executive Director position in 1990,” Stryker wrote, “he took the mandate to diversify the organization seriously. Di Maria attributes his multicultural sensitivity to his years with Urvashi Vaid at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. ‘Urvashi first taught me what multiculturalism meant,’ he said. ‘When I came to Frameline, I looked at achieving multicultural diversity not as a burden, but as an exciting goal to attain’.”
DiMaria would also spearhead a number of other major initiatives during his time at Frameline, including funding campaigns and a 1991 road trip to Russia to present the first (and last) Moscow/Leningrad Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Finch, a native of Manchester, England, who grew up in Cambridge, had already made his mark on the international film festival scene as a founding staff member at London’s Picadilly Film Festival and as a founder/programmer of the British Film Institute’s London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which he had helped to launch in 1987. Lumpkin lured him away from the BFI for a one-year sabbatical by offering him the chance to oversee an ambitious expansion of Frameline Distribution and assist in programming the festival.
Mark’s insight, intelligence, wit, and naughty British Schoolboy charm quickly won him legions of fans at Frameline and across San Francisco. By the time he returned to London at the end of his sabbatical Lumpkin was already looking for a way to bring him back.
Frameline Beyond the Festival - More Programs, More Right Wing Attacks
After three years of fundraising and development The Frameline Completion Fund awarded its first grants in 1990: a total of $5,000 dollars to Peter Adair and Janet Cole for Absolutely Positive, Catherine Saalfield for Among Good Christian Peoples and Paris Poirier for Last Call At Maud’s.
The year's special programs included the San Francisco premiere of New Queer Cinema darling Todd Haynes' “Poison” and a five-month “Best of the Festival” series at the Castro Theater.
But 1990 also brought an escalation in the right wing's war on the NEA and new attacks on the funding that made Frameline's ambitious programs - and the festival itself - possible.
"Our latest battle," Lumpkin wrote in the 1990 program guide, "is with conservative elements calling for the suppression of freedom of expression and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal agency which supports thousands of organizations and artists around the country - including Frameline ... The arts funding battle encompasses a wider range of issues: AIDS, public support of the arts, freedom of expression, freedom of access, and the definition of obscenity."
A promising funding stream Lumpkin had worked hard to develop was beginning to dry up under the relentless attacks - with dire consequences for both the organization and the festival.
The festival gives out four awards; "Best Documentary Award", the "First Feature Award", the "Audience Award", and the "Frameline Award" given annually to an individual who has played a key role in the history of LGBT cinema.
The festival has encountered difficulties through its lifetime, most notably the suicide of director Mark Finch in 1995. Finch jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge, an event that inspired former co-director Jenni Olson's film The Joy of Life. Finch has been cited as instrumental as helping the festival achieve international stature. Tess Martin, then executive director of festival sponsor Frameline Films stated "It really is international, and Mark Finch made that happen because he was involved in the international film world. He was an expert, he had a vision about it".
In 2004 the festival changed its name to the shorter Frameline28, the festival being the 28th annual event. Subsequent festivals have followed this naming pattern.
In 2007 Frameline in conjunction with the Bay Area Bisexual Network hosted Bi Request a program of short films curated by Amy André, comprising a selection of films made by bisexual directors and/or about bisexual subjects. In their introduction to the evening, Frameline noted that "Bi Request was inspired by Frameline’s ongoing commitment to promote bisexual visibility and display bi images in film".
In March 2007, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism and the South West Asian, North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ) initiated a campaign to pressure Frameline to end its relationship with the Israeli government.
In an open letter signed by more than 100 artists and writers, including Sophie Fiennes, Elia Suleiman, Ken Loach, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, Eduardo Galeano, Brian Eno, and Leon Rosselson, Frameline was asked "to honor calls for an international boycott of Israeli political and cultural institutions, by discontinuing Israeli consulate sponsorship of the LGBT film festival and not cosponsoring events with the Israeli consulate".
In June 2007, Frameline made the unprecedented decision to pull a juried and listed film, The Gendercator, directed by Catherine Crouch, from the 2007 Festival weeks before the opening. Protests and debates surrounded the decision about the film came from mainly transgender activists and community members. Some denounced the 20-minute science fiction piece as demonising and slandering transgender people while others in the same communities protested what they saw as censorship. The film subsequently was both shown and pulled from other LGBT-related film festivals and continues to be used as a source for discussion on transgender issues, perspectives and censorship.
- Stack, Peter, "Gay Film Festival to Go On Despite Director's Vanishing". San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, January 20, 1995, pp. D1.
- "Awards at San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
- Jenni, Olson (January 14, 2005). "Power Over Life and Death: Another toll goes up on the Golden Gate Bridge". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. B9.
- Meyer, Carla, "Gay festival trims name, adds screens". San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, May 26, 2004, pp. E1.
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- Bajko, Matthew S. "The Bay Area Reporter Online | Political Notebook: Queer activists reel over Israel, Frameline ties". Ebar.com. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- "San Francisco Queers Say No Pride in Apartheid". The Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 2014-01-27.