Frameline 41, the world’s longest-running and largest showcase of queer cinema, opens on June 15 with the West Coast premiere of The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin. Maupin described the charms and eccentricities of San Francisco’s denizens in his internationally acclaimed series Tales of the City. In this documentary – written and directed by Jennifer Kroot; co-directed and edited by Bill Weber – Maupin is shown to be just as endearingly funny, vulnerable, and bold as his popular protagonists.
Kroot is best known as the director, along with Weber, of To Be Takai, about gay Japanese-American actor George Takai, and It Came from Kuchar, about legendary filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar. Weber is also known for his work with David Weissman on The Cockettes and We Were Here.
In The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, excerpts are shown from the PBS miniseries, television news broadcasts, interviews with Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Jonathan Groff, and Neil Gaiman, as well as current/former San Franciscans Kate Bornstein, Jewelle Gomez, Margaret Cho, and Amy Tan. The resulting portrait is as much a valentine to the City as it is to one of its most astute chroniclers. Maupin journeys from Southern conservative Viet Nam veteran – who once worked for Jesse Helms and shook hands with Richard Nixon in the White House – to beloved progressive cultural and literary icon.
Viewers see Maupin – known to some as “Teddy;” others as “Army” – throughout his life: interviewing Harvey Milk; walking arm-in-arm with his husband, photographer and former model Christopher Turner; and reading from his memoir, Logical Family, forthcoming this fall. We learn the genesis of the now internationally renowned daily series in the San Francisco Chronicle, about his relationship with his family of origin, and hear his famous coming out letter movingly read by members of his “logical” – in contrast to his biological – family. As hilarious and heartwarming as the film is, it doesn’t flinch from dealing with more serious topics, such as Maupin being the first novelist to create a character to die of AIDS, his controversial outing of his friend Rock Hudson, and PBS’s cancellation of the television miniseries after right-wing attacks. Like the man himself, the documentary has substance as well as charm.
“Frameline41’s opening, closing, and centerpiece films shine a light on LGBTQ heroes in every sense of the word, while showcasing the full representation of global queer content at its finest,” said Frameline executive director Frances Wallace. “Whether it be the fascinating story of San Francisco gem, Armistead Maupin, the bold Chavela Vargas, iconic macha chanteuse and sexual outlaw, or Alan Cumming capturing the duality between queer generations; Frameline41 presents a festival that has something for everyone!”
Another west coast premiere, After Louie, is the Festival’s closing night film. A first feature from director Vincent Gagliostro, it stars Alan Cumming as Sam, who is struggling with survivor’s guilt from the early years of HIV/AIDS, and is bewildered by a younger generation of carefree gay men with their social media, sexting, and seeming political indifference. When he meets the seductive young Braeden (Zachary Booth), his guard comes down. Cumming is also being bestowed with the 2017 Frameline Award, established in 1986 to honor on an individual or organization that’s made a major contribution to LGBTQ representation in film, television, or the media arts.
The San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival takes place June 15 to 25 in theatres throughout the Bay Area. https://www.frameline.org/