More to grow on

Pub date June 19, 2013
SectionFilm Features

Pit Stop (Yen Tan, US) One of the very best narrative features at Sundance this year, Yen Tan’s drama nonetheless completely flew under the radar of media attention. It’s a beautifully low-key tale of two 40-ish gay men in a Texas small town. Neither are closeted, but they aren’t exactly fulfilled, either, both being in awkward domestic situations. Gabe (Bill Heck) is still living with angry ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) for the sake of their six year-old daughter. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) still shares his apartment with younger, slackerish ex-BF Luis (Alfredo Maduro), who keeps dragging his feet about actually moving out. Everyone is dissatisfied, but not quite willing to risk making a leap into unfamiliar territory. We know Gabe and Ernesto are fated to meet, yet it’s Tan’s terrifically nuanced portrayal of the relationships they must exit first that dominates almost the entire feature. Pit Stop is the kind of slow burner that sneaks up on you, surprising with the force of well-earned climactic joy after so much concise observation of credibly ordinary, troubled lives. Fri/21, 4pm, Castro; June 27, 7pm, Elmwood. (Dennis Harvey)

Free Fall (Stephan Lacant, Germany) A young German police cadet, Marc (Hanno Koffler), finds himself disturbingly drawn to a fellow cadet, Kay (Max Riemelt), during a weekend of training exercises — a regimen that proves to be not quite enough of an outlet to diffuse the erotic tension between them. Back home, though, are Marc’s very pregnant girlfriend, Bettina (Katharina Schüttler), and a circle of friends and family who expect him to continue along his current track of shacking up, forming a family, and demonstrating his loyalty to the macho brotherhood of his colleagues on the force. When Kay transfers into the department, his presence exerts a pressure on Marc that threatens to derail him. Director Stephan Lacant’s film, co-written with Karsten Dahlem, movingly depicts the painful breakdown of a man ruled by impulses he’s unable to face up to, and the consequences that come of remaining paralyzed in an impossible state. Fri/21, 6:30pm, Castro; Mon/24, 9:30pm, Elmwood. (Lynn Rapoport)

C.O.G. (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, US) The first feature adapted from David Sedaris’ writing, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film captures his acerbic autobiographical comedy while eventually revealing the misfit pain hidden behind that wit. Tightly wound David (Jonathan Groff), on the run from problematic family relations and his sexual identity, takes the bus from East Coast grad school to rural Oregon — his uninhibited fellow passengers providing the first of many mortifications here en route. Having decided that seasonal work as an apple picker will somehow be liberating, he’s viewed with suspicion by mostly Mexican co-workers and his crabby boss (Dean Stockwell). More fateful kinda-sorta friendships are forged with a sexy forklift operator (Corey Stoll) and a born-again war vet (Denis O’Hare). Under the latter’s volatile tutelage, David briefly becomes a C.O.G. — meaning “child of God.” Balancing the caustic, absurd, and bittersweet, gradually making us care about an amusingly dislikable, prickly protagonist, this is a refreshingly offbeat narrative that pulls off a lot of tricky, ambivalent mood shifts. Sat/22, 9:15pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Bwakaw (Jun Robles Lana, Philippines, 2012) Grumpy old man in the rural Philippines — OK, Jun Robles Lana’s seriocomedy isn’t going to top many lists as the sexiest movie at Frameline. But it’s one of the most deeply satisfying films at this year’s festival. Six-decade Filipino cinema veteran Eddie Garcia plays Rene, a crusty loner who lives alone and works without pay (he’s officially retired) at the local post office just to have something to do. He has cranky relationships — “friendships” would be a stretch — with the area priest, a widowed neighbor, and two over-the-top queens who run a hair salon. His closest bonds are to a rest-home denizen now too senile to remember who he is, and to the stray mutt who’s sort of his dog — though not so much that he’ll actually let it in the house. After decades in denial, Rene finally accepted his homosexuality at age 60, when “my time was [already] passed.” But he gets an unanticipated new surge of hope, possibly misdirected, upon befriending rough-hewn younger bicycle-taxi driver Sol (Rez Cortez). With its leisurely pace and seemingly stereotypical characters who turn out to be much more complex than they initially appear, Bwakaw is a disarmingly modest movie that gradually reveals a rather beautiful soul. Sun/23, 5:45pm, Victoria. (Harvey)

The Out List (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, US) Documentarian Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose previous projects have focused on prominent African Americans and Latinos, supermodels, and porn stars, turns his lens on the LGBTs for a survey film set to air on HBO this month. While there’s no sign of the radical faeries or the poly queers with negative interest in the marriage equality battle, Greenfield-Sanders has gathered a decently varied collection of 16 LGBT individuals, mostly but not only celebrities, whose common thread is having gone public. Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and ex-NFLer Wade Davis describe their time in the closet and their coming-out episodes, while Hollywood stars Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon comment on strategies for getting work and fighting the good fight (which for the latter includes closeting her bisexuality). Only an hour long, The Out List merely skims the surface of its subjects’ experiences, but we do get some sense of their scope, which includes finding family in NYC’s ballroom scene, getting elected as a lesbian Democratic sheriff in Dallas County, Texas, and learning to view one’s orientation as a gift from god. Tue/25, 4:30pm, Castro. (Rapoport)

Beyond the Walls (David Lambert, Belgium/Canada/France, 2012) Aptly compared in the Frameline catalog to such intelligent recent gay relationship studies as Weekend (2011) and Keep the Lights On (2012), David Lambert’s finely crafted debut feature charts its protagonists through an unpredictable, rocky romance. Paolo (Matila Malliarakis) is living with an older woman when he meets bartender-musician Ilir (Guillaume Gouix), who’s amused by the young blonde’s drunken antics while wary of the mutual attraction between them. When immature, puppyish Paolo gets thrown out by his exasperated girlfriend, he lands on Ilir’s doorstep as an uninvited instant-boyfriend, and despite some initial grumbling, that’s pretty much how it works out. Yet an unfortunate turn of events forces a long, involuntary separation between the two that their coupledom might not survive. While it requires a certain suspension of disbelief that focused, self-confident Ilir would fall for the flighty, needy Paolo, the eventual complexity of their relationship makes for a powerful cumulative impact. June 27, 9:30pm, Castro. (Harvey)

Reaching for the Moon (Bruno Barreto, Brazil) Brazilian director Bruno Barreto (1997’s Four Days in September) offers a moving account of the romantic relationship between the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires), which spanned the 1950s and the better part of the ’60s. The pair meet under inauspicious circumstances: traveling to Brazil, Elizabeth visits her old Vassar friend Mary (Tracy Middendorf) at the gorgeous rural estate where she lives with Lota, a wealthy woman from one of Brazil’s prominent political families. Unfortunately for Mary, Lota’s regard for the timid, restrained Elizabeth moves along a precipitous arc from irritation to infatuation, her subsequent impetuous pursuit of her lover’s friend revealing a heartless egoism — as well as an attitude toward householding that blends a poly sensibility with a ruling-class sense of entitlement. The film tracks Elizabeth and Lota’s enduring affair during a period marked by professional triumphs, personal lows, and political turmoil, all of which take their toll on the relationship. June 28, 6:45pm, Castro. (Rapoport)

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project (Jonah Mossberg, US) Jonah Mossberg’s documentary crosses the country seeking out the perspectives of LGBT farmers, visiting some 30 farms before narrowing the focus to seven disparate subjects growing food in settings that range from a community garden in West Philadelphia to a farmstead in rural Alabama (or what one participant calls “the toenail of the Appalachians”). An allegiance to organics and other sustainable practices establishes some common ground. However, asked to encapsulate how queerness impacts her farming life, a woman raising crops and chickens in the Bronx’s Garden of Happiness observes, “I don’t think the land asks that question — if you’re gay or straight,” while others tease queerness out of acts like turning to permaculture and draw connections between heteronormativity and industrial agriculture. Look for fermentation guru Sandor Katz at Tennessee’s Little Short Mountain Farm, and stay seated for the longish closing credits interspersed with earnest (and otherwise) discussions of which veggie wins the title of queerest piece of produce. June 29, 1:30pm, Victoria. (Rapoport)

Young and Wild (Marialy Rivas, 2012) Structured around the anonymous and oft-graphic blog posts of a Chilean teenager, director-cowriter Marialy Rivas’s inventive, engaging film depicts a young woman’s navigation — both solitary and very, very public — of her sexual and romantic impulses as they clash with a rigid upbringing of spiritual indoctrination. Raised in an evangelical Christian household, Daniela (Alicia Rodríguez) bluntly documents, under the screen name Young and Wild, a period of upset and exploration during which she is outed as a fornicator and expelled from school, threatened by her hard-edged mother (Aline Küppenheim) with missionary exile, and faced with the sorrow of watching a beloved aunt (Ingrid Isensee) battle cancer. As Daniela begins a relationship with a young man (Felipe Pinto), begins a relationship with a young woman (María Gracia Omegna), and records the proceedings with a complicated mixture of comic insights, lyrical observations, and obscenities, her introspections play with the device of the straightforward voice-over—broadcast to untold numbers of unknown peers who avidly follow and comment on her adventures and misadventures. June 29, 8:30pm, Roxie. (Rapoport)

Frameline37 runs June 20-30 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St, SF; Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, SF; and Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College, Berk. For tickets (most shows $12) and complete schedule, visit