Big Screen Berkeley: Frameline40 in the East Bay

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Ovarian Psycos screens at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20, at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood as part of the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival

It’s time once again for the annual San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival (more succinctly known as Frameline40). This year the Festival further expands in the East Bay, offering five days of programming at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.

I’ve always had a soft spot for biker movies, so when I read the précis for Ovarian Psycos (screening at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20) my interest was immediately piqued. Could the film possibly be a distaff version of 1971’s legendary gay biker epic, The Pink Angels?

Alas no, but Ovarian Psycos still largely succeeds on its own terms. While the Psycos might be considered a ‘gang’ by some, they ride pedal bikes as opposed to Harleys, and are actually more of a community organization cum bicycle club serving women of color living in or near East L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood.

Primarily (though not exclusively) young and Latina, the Psycos organize large-scale rides through the streets — sometimes dubbed ‘Clitoral Mass’ — in an ongoing effort to reclaim the streets for women. Their meetings also serve as open-ended opportunities to discuss issues that affect members’ daily lives — particularly male violence against women.


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Pushing Dead is an absolute delight from start to finish thanks to its excellent cast and Brown’s witty screenplay”

Unsurprisingly, the club is not looked upon kindly by their heterogametic counterparts, one of whom we see cattily badmouthing them in an L.A. bike shop. A deluge of social media abuse should also disabuse viewers of the notion that there’s no need for an all-female bicycle brigade.

The following night sees the East Bay premiere of writer-director Tom E. Brown’s Pushing Dead. Set and shot in San Francisco (with a brief side trip to the trains at Tilden Park!), the film is a comedy-drama about a long-term AIDS survivor coming to terms with, well, the fact that he’s still alive 22 years after being diagnosed.

The hugely likable James Roday headlines as Dan, whose medication has stabilized his condition and allowed him to continue working as a ‘bouncer’ at the local watering hole owned by his friend Bob (Danny Glover). Dan is looking for a new relationship – his previous partner Kevin died some time ago – but is struggling to find someone willing to commit to a man with a serious chronic illness.

An additional complication arises when Dan’s health insurance temporarily lapses, leaving him without needed medication for a few weeks. Even the support of roommate Paula (the delightfully winsome and wry Robin Weigert) and chum Bob won’t be enough to help Dan overcome the soulless actuaries of the insurance industry.

Despite a somewhat grim title, Pushing Dead is an absolute delight from start to finish thanks to its excellent cast and Brown’s witty screenplay. This is a film that deserves much wider exposure – hopefully it will get a general release in the near future. Highly recommended.


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“From Afar features an excellent lead performance by Alfredo Castro as a dental technician with all sorts of issues”

Finally, consider Venezuela’s From Afar (Desde allá, screening on Thursday, June 23, at 9:30 p.m.). It’s an unusual character study about two men – one young, one middle-aged – brought together by sexual attraction and a mutual loathing for their fathers. It’s a downer, especially in comparison to Pushing Dead, but features an excellent lead performance by Alfredo Castro as a dental technician with all sorts of issues.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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