SF DocFest 21 Queer Winners You Can’t Miss
The 21st San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (SF DocFest) returns June 1-12 and will feature a hybrid presentation of virtual screenings and live presentations, presented at the Roxie Theater. Most of these will also include in-person Q&A sessions.
DocFest has always screened a number of queer films. This year, there is one feature film and seven short films. The feature is the documentary “Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way”. It’s a great movie to treasure. Even if you’ve never watched MTV’s “The Real World” (one of the earliest examples of reality TV) set in San Francisco in 1994, the show that made Pedro a household name, this documentary will will help to understand why he deserves to be remembered and cherished.
Diagnosed HIV-positive at the age of 17, the charismatic and eloquent movie star-like Zamora became an expert AIDS educator who had a knack for reaching gay youth and POCs in Miami, where he lived after his family escaped from Cuba. in the 1980 Mariel boat lift.
“Keep the Cameras Rolling” uses archival footage of Pedro and his “Real World” days as well as contemporary interviews with family, friends and castmates. Former President Clinton and Dr. Anthony Fauci extrapolate on Pedro’s continued importance.
Pedro became the first PVA known to many viewers, teaching the world how to live with HIV. Victims were still often viewed with fear and suspicion, but Pedro’s message was that they were just as normal as anyone else. Pedro was one of the few openly gay people on television at that time.
It’s amazing because ‘Real World’ roommate Judd Winick recalls that just months before this series debuted, there was huge controversy when on Fox TV it was announced that his show ‘Melrose Place” would feature a kiss shown between two Men. The Melrose producers relented and turned the camera away when the guys really kissed.
‘Real World’ not only filmed Pedro kissing boyfriend Sean Sasser, but for the first time televised their wedding in a commitment ceremony, a gay wedding decades before he even be legal. Pedro has also testified about HIV before Congress, which Clinton praises.
The reflections of Winick and his roommate Pam Ling are particularly poignant, as they not only married years after the show ended, but dedicated their lives to HIV activism and the preservation of the Pedro’s legacy. The film asserts that Pedro was the right guy at the right time. Sympathetic, vulnerable, heartfelt and courageous, he lived his own mission to accept people for who they are, changing the conversation in America about HIV, but also about being gay.
As a signal, Pedro died at age 22, hours after the last episode of “Real World” aired. This documentary was created with a team of 20 students from the University of Missouri’s Murray Center for Documentary Journalism.
Nearly three decades after Pedro’s death, this documentary brings him back to life, and in another era of pandemic and bitter division, it feels more relevant than ever. “Keep the Cameras Rolling” is a fitting remembrance tribute for a unique and enduring role model, dwelling less on loss and more on celebration. This documentary will also air on Frameline.
“Act of Coming Out” (11 minutes) is powerful and moving. A group of queer and trans actors in Los Angeles audition for the role of coming out to someone. Re-enacting these scenes, they draw inspiration from their own experience, but the audience does not know if what they are seeing is reality or performance.
An actor made a convincing exit in tears to his mother, but then revealed on camera that he didn’t do it in real life. What was particularly poignant was that each actor then had to play the person they had just dated, expressing what they hoped that person would have said to them if it happened in real time.
Despite all the progress made in LGBTQ equality and reassurances of how simple and practical it is today, this short film argues that coming out can still be a stressful, anxious and emotionally draining experience for many people. queer. The film was made as part of Stanford University’s Documentary MFA program.
“Black Veil” (27 minutes) explores again the courage it takes to declare oneself non-binary, neither male nor female, an identity that is not fully recognized by our society at large. Bradley has struggled with her own gender identity for years. Bradley faces two significant events in their lives. Bradley recently joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and completed the required charitable work before being officially ordained a nun and receiving the black veil.
The second turning point is Bradley’s marriage to his longtime partner Emma. Will these two milestones give Bradley the confidence to confidently declare an authentic version of themselves? The film deftly tackles the challenge of being non-binary, which is more than just adopting new pronouns, but living and embodying a message of inclusivity.
“The Last Call for Alcohol” (27 minutes), covers the story of a San Francisco bar in Church and Market called Lucky 13, which lasted 27 years until it was sold in 2018 for seven million dollars, presumably to build condos. Built right after the 1906 earthquake, the bar has had many incarnations, including western-themed gay bars like The Mind Shaft, Alfie’s and the High Chapparal.
As Lucky 13, it encompassed a tight-knit community of working-class straight and LGBTQ patrons in what was once called a dive bar. The film interviews several longtime customers and bartenders, devastated by his loss.
However, this short is also an effective indictment of a city bent on making money at the expense of providing sustainable housing, driving businesses and residents out of town. The film argues convincingly that by abandoning community spaces like Lucky 13, San Francisco also loses its unique soul. This short film will leave you both sad and angry about how the city repeatedly allows these cultural casualties to happen to its detriment.
Other promising shorts not available to press include “Distance Between,” a conversation between a cisgender person and a trans person, each trying to learn what it means to be queer and trans.
“It’s Just Me,” is about black transgender woman Allie Cole in Austin, Texas, who negotiates the demands of sex work, activism, a complex relationship with her parents while overcoming childhood trauma and finding love.
“(Trans)Feminity” centers on Giovanna, Maeva and Alyx, three transgender women, teaching us the need to deconstruct the concept of binary gender, which has cultivated feminine/masculine stereotypes for centuries.
“Queering Yoga” tells the story of six Queer/Trans/QTPOC yoga teachers and their personal stories of healing/transformation as they journey through their yoga practice helping them explore identity and community.
SF DocFest runs June 1-12 at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., and streaming online. sfdocfest2022.eventive.org www.roxie.com
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