Films to watch out at 48th annual San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival (Frameline48)

By Oliver Carnay

For more information and complete list of films playing at FRAMELINE48, please log on to 

DEMONS AT DAWN is playing June 23, 8:30 pm at the Roxie Theatre. Director Julián Hernández, actor Luis Vegas, and producer Roberto Fiesco are scheduled to attend.

Mexico City. A sexy go-go boy. A charming med student. A chance encounter. A blazing affair. This is Demons at Dawn, Julián Hernández’s latest chronicle of young queer folks finding love, sex, and connection in an increasingly difficult world. Still living with his parents, Orlando (Luis Vegas from the series El juego de las llaves) has big dreams of becoming a professional dancer but for now, he’s go-go-ing at a popular gay bar to make ends meet. Marco (Axel Shuarma) is a studious young professional on track to graduate soon from nursing school. An instant spark between the two ignites into a charged romance that neither one quite knows what to do with, inspiring them both to chart their own separate paths toward understanding and accepting their shared destinies.

After hosting the world premiere of Hernández’s The Trace of Your Lips at Frameline47, we’re thrilled to present the US premiere of his latest feature — which is as visually sumptuous, erotically motivated, meticulously choreographed, and boldly uncompromised as you’ve come to expect from Mexico’s preeminent queer cinema provocateur.

THE LIFE OF SEAN DELEAR is playing on June 20, 3:30 pm at the Roxie Theatre. Director Markus Zizenbacher and animator Ava Rodriguez-Smith are scheduled to attend.

A multidisciplinary artist and scene queen in a variety of different circles from the beautiful elite to the queer punks of LA in the 90s, Sean DeLear broke the mold when it came to being Black and gay in the art world and in the music scene. A rebel in the face of gender, race, and sexuality, DeLear fronted the post-punk band Glue, whose music video was deemed too hot for MTV, and counted The B-52s and Yoko Ono among his fans.

In The Life of Sean DeLear, friends and peers pieced together DeLear’s video archives and writing samples into a fun and enlightening tribute, honoring the counterculture spirit of this American artist — who died of cancer in 2017. Did SeanD really go to highschool with Courtney Love? Did he really befriend Kate Moss after crashing her birthday party? The film dispels none of the myths about this artist of allure and mystery. Alongside the posthumously published teenage diaries of DeLear, I Could Not Believe It, Marcus Zizenbacher’s film — which features the likes of Rick Owens, Ann Magnuson, and Susan Tyrrell — ensures that Sean DeLear (sounds like “chandelier”) and his vibrant light will never go out.

Mad About the Boy: The Noël Coward Story is playing June 20, 6:00 pm at the Roxie Theatre. Director Barnaby Thompson is scheduled to attend.

Playwright, composer, leading man; Oscar nominee, Tony winner, Time Magazine cover-star. The dazzlingly talented Noël Coward did it all — even spying for the crown during World War II. Coward wrote peak British theater — the ghost story Blithe Spirit; the racy menage Design for Living; and the classic cinematic tearjerker Brief Encounter. As this lively documentary reveals, Coward was a master of self-invention. Raised in a working-class boarding house with no formal education after age 9, Coward turned himself into the ultimate upper-crust British sophisticate (cigarette holder, dressing gown, rolled Rs), dishing out wit that winked toward his homosexuality.  

With appearances by Dame Maggie Smith, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Lucille Ball, Mad About the Boy reclaims Coward for queer history, narrated by Alan Cumming with Rupert Everett serving as Coward’s voice, and with Adam Lambert belting on the soundtrack. Home movies show Coward cavorting with handsome male lovers among the queer demimonde, while staying closeted publicly. Out of fashion during the Swinging Sixties, Coward remade himself again — as one of the first musical superstars with a must-see Las Vegas residency. A true survivor, Coward wrote his own last act: a hard-fought happy ending.

YOUNG HEARTS will be screening on June 21, 6:30 pm at the Palace of Fine Arts, to be attended by Director Anthony Schatteman. First Friday Gala Party to be held at the Terra Gallery after the screening (may get separate ticket entry, go to for details).

Beautifully filmed in the Belgian countryside, Young Hearts is a refreshing tale of first love. In his feature debut, writer/director Anthony Schatteman (Kiss Me Softly, Frameline37) pulls off the impressive feat of offering something unique and profound for everyone: a much-needed salve for the folks whose first taste of queer love was riddled with trauma, a gentle mirror for the LGBTQ+ youth of today, and a sincere harbinger of hope to parents raising the next generation of queers.

Elias seems to be a pretty carefree kid in his pretty cute Belgian town. At 14, Elias (Lou Goossens in a breakthrough performance) is pretty carefree; he has a gang of friends at school, a kinda-sorta girlfriend he likes to hang out with (platonically), and fun parents. But when a cool new city boy, Alex, moves in next door, Elias finds his feelings of friendship going much deeper than he knows what to do with. Reminiscent of Lukas Dhont’s Oscar-nominated Close (though without its tragic element), Young Hearts is an emotionally perceptive and rewarding cinematic experience. For Elias, truly giving in to first love will have to start with accepting himself. His journey is a joy to watch.

IN THE SUMMERS will be playing at the Palace of Fine Arts on June 20, 6:00 pm. Director Alessandra Lacorazza will be attending.

A recipient of the Frameline Completion Fund Grant, and winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, this delicately powerful ode to fractured fatherhood and sibling solidarity follows sisters Violeta and Eva over the course of the most formative years of their lives, spending the summers in New Mexico visiting their adoring but tempestuous father, Vicente. The two siblings must figure out a way to navigate coming of age and emerge unscathed as Vicente’s recklessness drives the roller coaster of their youth.

In his first major acting role, multi Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican rapper and activist Residente is a towering revelation, imbuing the complicated Vicente with a potent mix of vulnerability and danger. Filmmaker Alessandra Lacorazza – whose incisive direction was celebrated at Sundance – drew from personal experiences to bring her feature debut to life. Also starring Lío Mehiel (Mutt, Frameline47) and Sasha Calle (The Flash), In the Summers examines the complexities of family, trauma, and identity through its Latinx and queer characters at various epochal junctures on the winding road to redemption and salvation.

EXTREMELY UNIQUE DYNAMIC will be playing on June 22, 3:30 pm at the Vogue Theatre. Directors/cast members Harrison Su and Ivan Leung, Executive Producer Francis Bonilla, and producer Noel Do-Murakami will be attending.

In this gleeful buddy/stoner comedy, aspiring actors/childhood best friends Ryan and Danny are at a crossroads. It’s their last weekend together in LA before Ryan moves away, and the guys have very different ideas about how to enjoy this precious time. Danny wants to get high and relax, but ambitious, marketing-obsessed Ryan convinces him to immortalize their friendship by making an indie movie… about two friends making a movie… about two friends making a movie. When, while playing one of his many characters in the meta plot, Danny reveals a long-held secret, the pair must set aside the cameras and confront the deeper storyline of this moment in their lives and friendship.

Co-leads/writers/directors Ivan Leung and Harrison Xu (along with co-director/writer Katherine Dudas) lampoon Hollywood conventions and stereotypes with their giddy premise, but at its core, Extremely Unique Dynamic is a heartfelt take on male friendship. It also features cameos from YouTube star Nathan Doan and Hudson Yang (Fresh Off the Boat). Don’t rush out of the theater when the credits roll, there’s more fun to be had!

Life Is Not a Competition, But I’m Winning, directed by Julia Fuhr Mann, will be playing on June 23, 1:00 pm at the Roxie Theatre

Lack of equal pay, possible genital checks, the pressure to hyper-feminize oneself, and our incessant need for categorization in the name of supposed fair play ⎯ the fight for equal rights in sports continues for athletes who exist in gender nonconforming bodies. This unconventional documentary (with the best title of the year) uses archival Olympic footage, intimate conversations with queer athletes, eye-opening historical facts, and a little bit of time travel to reclaim monumental spaces like the Olympic Stadium of Athens and honor the varied legacies of those on the margins ⎯ namely queer, trans, intersex, and Black women athletes. 

Through a reimagining of record-breaking sporting events, we meet athletes like Annet Negesa, a Ugandan runner who was forced to undergo hormone-changing surgery against her will. And Stella Walsh, a Polish American Olympic champion whose diet, stride, and movements were picked apart to determine why she could “run like a man.” Linking queer history with future possibilities in service of crumbling the façade of Olympic ideals, the shared experiences of these trailblazers demand acknowledgment, a call for change, and collective healing. 

SEBASTIAN will be playing on June 24, 6:00 pm at the Vogue Theatre. Director Mikko Mäkelä, actor Ruaridh Mollica, and producer James Watson will be attending.

Struggling as a young aspiring writer in London, Max forges a new identity for himself in the form of a ravenous sex worker: Sebastian. Opening himself up to a previously unexplored world, Max suddenly finds himself unburdened by expectations and invigorated by possibility. When he begins writing thinly-veiled stories about his double life, Max finds himself with the book deal he’d been dreaming of. But as his newfound experiences spur a creative output, Max must decide where he ends and Sebastian begins.

With his confident sophomore feature, Finnish British writer/director Mikko Mäkelä (A Moment in the Reeds, Frameline42) isn’t afraid to explore the complicated nuances of sex work and the transformative power it can wield. As Mäkelä traces Max’s journey of self-identity (which is powerfully brought to life onscreen by actor Ruaridh Mollica), he opts not for sensationalism but tenderness. The result is a thoughtful, compelling investigation of the importance of queer identities and how they shape us.

GOOD ONE is playing on June 24, 8:30 pm at the Roxie Theatre. Presented in partnership with Colin Higgins Foundation.

Basking the blissful days of new love with her girlfriend, Sam’s (Lily Collias) life at the moment is pretty great, but the dread of a weekend bonding trip with her dad Chris (James Le Gros, Certain Women) and his longtime best friend Matt (Somebody, Somewhere‘s Danny McCarthy) has just been amplified by Matt’s son, the only other person with an understanding of what absurdities lie ahead, officially bailing. A masterclass on the fallacies of men, Good One flips the script on coming-of-age clichés, asking who really is the one in need of growing up. Even if you can guess the answer to that, writer/director India Donaldson has a lot to offer within Good One, blending its sense of humor with surprising nuance.

With touches of Kelly Reichardt within a unique, fully realized vision, Donaldson offers a funny and wry anti-coming-of-age film. Anchored by a revelatory central performance from Collias and a dazzling score by Celia Hollander, Donaldson’s disarming first feature was the toast of both Sundance and Cannes this year.

ASOG is playing on June 25, 3:30 pm at the Roxie Theatre. This film is a recipient of a Frameline Completion Fund grant.

Jaya is a witty and talented non-binary comedian whose dreams of stardom were derailed when their TV talk show gig was lost after a typhoon destroyed their studio a decade prior. Stuck in an overwhelming and unfulfilling teaching job, Jaya sets off across the Philippines to compete in a drag pageant that might turn around their luck towards fortune and fame. But when setting off, they are aligned with a former student headed in the same direction to track down a missing-in-action father.

The unexpected twosome’s journey brings them closer to each other, their queer identities, and to the land — with the film breaking the fourth wall of their adventure to showcase the plight of local citizens affected by the legacy of stolen land and disaster brought on by climate change. A visionary blend of fable and nonfiction, with casual humor both deadpan and slapstick, this arresting feature from Canadian stand-up comedian Seán Devlin tackles climate concerns, colonialism, and anti-queer biases head-on through the eyes of its unforgettable central hero. Winner of the Audience Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Asog was co-executive produced by Alan Cumming, Joel Kim Booster, and Adam McKay.

SPLIT will be playing on June 26, 8:00 pm at the Roxie Theatre.

Wanting the exciting career, but also craving the steadiness of family. Loving your partner, but unable to ignore the passion and intensity with someone else. For Anna (Alma Jodorowsky, Blue Is the Warmest Color), a stunt double for the famous multi-hyphenate megastar, Eve Callac (played by Anatomy of a Fall’s Jehnny Beth in a brooding, sultry performance), life is about split decisions and split loyalties. Sometimes all it takes is a few secret dressing room rendezvous, tender countryside adventures, and daring feats of activism. With Eve, the usually fearless Anna finds herself cautiously stepping into her sexuality while stepping out of the life she envisioned for herself. 

Written and directed by feminist author Iris Brey and also starring Pauline Chalamet (The Sex Lives of College Girls), this slick, sexy romance confronts the lingering stigmas around significant women’s issues through intimate and liberating scenes. A five-episode limited series shown in its entirety here at the Festival, Split smartly examines what it means to pursue your desires and the inevitable evolution of relationships and connection.

THROUPLE will be playing at the Roxie Theatre on June 27 at 3:30 pm. Actor/Screenwriter Michael Doshier, producers Katharine Bartek and Phillip Hughes will be attending.

Bubbly and steamy at varying turns, Greyson Horst’s comedy Throuple is alive with a sense of romantic exploration amid the fierce energy of its DIY scene. At its opening, Throuple finds single singer-songwriter Michael (played by Michael Doshier, who also penned the screenplay) adrift and musically uninspired… at least until he meets a newly-open gay married couple at his friend’s show.

Seemingly on the hunt for casual sexual encounters, Georgie (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge) and Connor (Tommy Heleringer of Gayby, Frameline36) instantly draw Michael into their orbit. But when Michael’s relationship with the husbands starts to feel less like an NSA fling and more like a hunt to find their third, Michael starts to consider new possibilities both in his romantic and his artistic pursuits, taking him to uncharted territory.

Using split-screen editing, sharp location photography, and colorful captions amid the din of the many concert and performance sequences, Throuple’s energy stems as much from its central trio as the creative community they’re a part of. Throuple offers a sweetly realized tale of growing up, which places openness and creativity as keys to unlocking one’s self.

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