Reel groundbreaking

FRAMELINE Appropriately enough, Kathy Wolfe — founder and CEO of this year’s Frameline Award winner, Wolfe Video — realized her calling while attending a Frameline screening.

“Somewhere around 1979, I went to a Frameline screening of [pioneering 1977 doc] Word is Out. Within the body of that film, there’s a challenge to make a difference,” she remembers, speaking from her San Jose office. “I started working in my local public access television station, and for four years I studied and worked in every aspect of video production. At the end of that, I actually had a few documentary-style pieces and some women’s music videos I wanted to sell. In order to get more serious, I took out a business license, and that was in 1985. But I very much was inspired by the challenge in the movie. Our mission today is very similar to the mission we had at that time: to make these images more available to the world at large so that people would feel empowered to come out.”

Today, Wolfe Video is the leading exclusive distributor of LGBT films, which they do via film festivals, video stores, video on demand, and the Internet, including their website, Their catalog includes hits like Big Eden (2000) and Claire of the Moon (1992), as well as the entire performance catalog of Lily Tomlin — whose early support helped the company make key contacts with distribution networks and retail outlets. According to president Maria Lynn, who joined in 1993, the fact that Wolfe Video is celebrating its 25th anniversary is a testament to the increasing popularity of LGBT films.

“[In 1985] the gay genre, as it were, was considered small and unknown. Now it’s a very significant genre in independent film. Between Wolfe distributing them, and filmmakers making them, and festivals like Frameline screening them, it has created its own category within independent film,” she says. “We have a lot of movies now that have a more mainstream appeal, for example Undertow, which is going to be a centerpiece at Frameline, is a beautiful film from Peru. And the way people talked about Brokeback Mountain as being about love — people will talk about this one similarly. It touches people very deeply and it is not limited to a gay and lesbian audience as well. That’s one of the biggest things that’s changed: the filmmakers have really been able to branch out, whether it’s with casting, or better stories, or bigger budgets.” 


With Undertow Tues/22, 7 p.m., Castro