words: Clara Neupert

photo: Ellen Mahaffy

The line for “When the Beat Drops” (Jamal Sims, 2018) stretched from the Castro Theatre’s entrance to the door of the gyro place on the corner. To me, it seemed as though a remarkable number of people had appeared for a windy Tuesday evening movie. Clad in leather jackets and scarves, moviegoers’ faces twitched in the unwelcome summer wind. Tonight, the Castro would provide refuge in more ways than one.  

As I waited, I reflected on my own experience after five days at Frameline42. For me, my viewership has rewarded me with glimpses into important facets of the queer community that I would otherwise be unaware of, intersections between identities that I do not hold.  

I had a good five minutes before the doors of Castro would open, so Annie and I took the time to ask the people around us one question: What is the importance of a queer film festival?  

I noticed all of the people I asked in line were older than me, maybe in their fifties or sixties. Judging by my personal experience, these elders are the largest age demographic in Frameline’s audience.  

Their responses came easily. One person’s response highlights the personal connection LGBTQIA+ audiences make with queer characters and themes.  

“Community involvement, community validation, seeing who we are on the big screen is a big deal,” they said. “Being in a queer space with people, learning. It’s a teachable moment.” 

Another person expressed beautifully the importance of acknowledging identities and spaces vastly different from your own.  

“It simply remains the case that there are many different viewpoints and experiences to be presented that have little chance to make it into a widespread distribution or what not,” the movie goer told me. “So, to some degree, this is both effective diversification for the community as it is but also a staging ground, if you will, for a broader audience.”  

Later that week, at the Women’s Brunch, I was able to speak with the women directors of Frameline42. I asked them the same question. Margaret McHugh, who produced the short “What Do You See” (Michael Bonner, 2017), answered simply after some thought.   

“I think queer cinema is important,” Margaret said. “Because it’s queer and it tells stories that represent communities — My community, our community — and it’s important that those narratives are seen in films and screen.”