Pass the Remote: Excellent Pride program in San Rafael, amazing nature doc for the big screen 

The Oscar-winning "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt" looks at the origin of the iconic NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. (Courtesy CAFILM Pride)

Numerous local LGBTQ+ activities commemorating Pride this month are on the rainbow horizon. They include two film series. The biggest, of course, is the annual Frameline festival, from June 19-29.

A shorter yet mighty impressive program runs June 7-9 at the Christopher Smith Rafael Film Center. CAFILM Pride, curated by Mill Valley Film Festival World Cinema Programmer João Federici, features excellent films, including a collection of shorts from and/or about queer women.

In addition to Pride-related programs, there’s a breathtaking documentary coming to the Roxie in San Francisco on June 7. It needs to be seen in a theater, not on an itty-bitty device.

CAFILM Pride opens Friday with a timeless classic, the poignant 1989 time-capsule “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.” The 1990 Oscar winning documentary from ace Bay Area filmmaking team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman – who will appear after the 7 p.m. screening – is a poignant reminder of the devastation and ostracization experienced by many afflicted with HIV, as well as those left behind: grieving friends, lovers, caregivers and, in some cases, families. Featuring a new vocal score from Bobby McFerrin and with narration by Dustin Hoffman, “Common Threads” delves into the genesis of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. A section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, perhaps the most iconic representation of those tragically lost due to AIDS, will be displayed at the Rafael. It was made by Marin County groups and families who lost loved ones. CAFILM has partnered with the National AIDS Memorial Grove to bring both to the Smith Rafael.

The 1980s-set “Pride” is a British gem with a dynamite cast. (Courtesy CAFILM Pride) 

The underrated 2014 gem “Pride” at 4:30 p.m. June 8 serves up a rich, extraordinary slice of British history, describing how, in the 1980s, U.K. mine workers paired with unlikely allies, queer folks, to demand greater respect and better representation. The dramedy is loaded with a remarkable cast, including Andrew Scott, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and George MacKay, bringing their A-game to a dramedy that covers the AIDS crisis, homophobia and workers’ rights in Margaret Thatcher times. Stephen Beresford’s hope-saturated screenplay expertly demonstrates how two so-called opposing sides found common ground, even friendship, over a cause. It’s a message worth embracing, and heeding, during today’s disruptive times.

In “Toll,” a single mom and toll worker (Maeve Jinkings) engages in questionable activities so she can pay off a gay conversion therapy program for her son. (Courtesy CAFILM Pride) 

One of the grittiest works, from Brazil, has flown well under the radar. I’d never heard of it and am glad to have been introduced to it. Director Carolina Markowicz’s “Toll” at 2:30 p.m. June 9 sidesteps tidy resolutions, making the family drama particularly forceful, authentic and powerful. It centers on the complicated relationship of toll attendant-single mom Suellen (Maeve Jinkings) and her queer teen son Tiquinho (Kauan Alvarenga). Suellen is urged by a less than respectable married coworker (Aline Marta Maia) – who hooks up with drivers willy-nilly while on the job – to sign Tiquinho up for a dangerously ineffective gay-conversion program led by a crackpot traveling pastor (Isac Graça). Suellen leans on her criminal boyfriend Arauto (Thomás Aquino) to get an exorbitant amount of cash to pay for it, by any means necessary. Markowicz observes desperate measures taken by people living in poverty in Brazil, and the toll that religiously endorsed homophobia exacts not only on gay people, but on everyone around them as well.

“Tomboy” illustrates why Céline Sciamma is one of the best filmmakers depicting gender fluidity. (Courtesy CAFILM Pride)

You can always count on French screenwriter/director Céline Sciamma to put out great films, one after another, from her 2007 debut “Water Lilies” to 2019’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (one of my favorites) and the delicate “Petite Maman” from 2021. Her 2011 “Tomboy,” screening at 5 p.m. June 9, expounds on one of her common themes, gender fluidity. A quiet masterpiece that holds up tremendously well, it’s a warm look at 10-year-old Laure’s (Zoé Héran, in a phenomenal performance) pursuit of a new identity as a boy Mikael. Sciamma puts us into her protagonist’s shoes and head during one defining summer.

The celebration of LGBTQ+ filmmaking closes out at 5 p.m. June 9 with “Shorts: Queer Women’s Stories,” a co-venture presented with Frameline. The nine shorts represent a variety of voices, the bulk from Bay Area filmmakers. Acclaimed Berkeley filmmaker and queer historian Jenni Olson’s “Blue Diary” says a lot in a moody six minutes as a female narrator ruminates about a past crush to the accompaniment of evocative shots of San Francisco.

The Bay Area’s Alba Roland Mejia’s five-minute B&W (mostly) “Blackness Is Everything” could be described as a visual poem to Oakland set to a terrific jazz soundtrack performed/written with eloquence by the Bay Area’s Donté Clark. Other films featuring Bay Area talent include Annie Dean-Ganek’s “Carving Space,” Logan Mucha’s “Dani Boi,” Sarah Taborga and Aïma Paule’s “Femme Rage” and H. Lenn Keller’s “Ifé.”  After the screenings, some filmmakers will appear in conversation.

For tickets ($10.50 to $14 per screening) and information, visit

“Songs of Earth,” a gorgeous and personal Norwegian nature documentary, is a must-see on a big screen. (Courtesy Strand Releasing)

Speaking of visual lyricism, director Margreth Olin’s personal documentary “Songs of Earth” is a site to behold and to cherish. The transcendent film glimpses into nature-worshiping journeys through Olin’s 85-year-old father Jørgen Mykløen’s outdoor paradise: the spectacular Oldedalen valley in Norway. Olin’s film is full of gentle grace, with Olin following the wanderlust Jørgen as he treks through a majestic valley, which bears disheartening witness to the signs of climate change. This impossibly gorgeous documentary is Olin’s visual essay of the land and her family’s soulful connection to it. “Songs of Earth” starts June 7 at the Roxie.

The post Pass the Remote: Excellent Pride program in San Rafael, amazing nature doc for the big screen  appeared first on Local News Matters.

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