Frameline short takes

FRAMELINE: Quick looks at some highlights of the film fest

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Between the sheets, between the pages: "The Secret Diary of Miss Anne Lister"

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (James Kent, UK, 2010) A BBC production set in the northern English countryside of the early 19th century, James Kent's The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister depicts the amatory adventures of a gentlewoman landowner (Maxine Peake) in search of a "female companion" with whom to live out her days. The narrative is somewhat breathless, the seductions equally so and yet a bit anemic, and our strong-willed, fearless heroine is admirable without being entirely engaging. Still, besides tapping into the Jane Austen slash fiction demographic, this tale of pre-Victorian bodice ripping and skirt lifting among the female gentry offers the considerable thrill of being adapted from the actual secret diaries of the titular Miss Lister, decoded by a biographer 150 years after her death. A documentary in the festival, Matthew Hill's The Real Anne Lister, offers a complementary version of her story. Thurs/17, 7 p.m., Castro. (Lynn Rapoport)

The Owls (Cheryl Dunye, USA, 2010) Expectations are high for The Owls: writer-director Cheryl Dunye again collaborates with Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie, and other notable queer performers —compels you to think of classics like Go Fish (1994) and The Watermelon Woman (1996). The Owls isn't quite at that level, but it's a fairly thought-provoking piece. Four middle-aged lesbians — played by Dunye, Turner, Brodie, and Lisa Gornick — accidentally kill a younger lesbian and try to cover up the murder. Their ages are central: the fear of getting older is a major thematic concern. So, too, ideas of gender identity, with the introduction of androgynous Skye (Skyler Cooper). But Dunye breaks the fourth wall, staging her film as a pseudo-mockumentary with both the characters and the actors offering commentary. At just over an hour, The Owls can't sustain all the back-and-forth, and too many intriguing ideas are left unfinished. Fri/18, 7 p.m., Castro. (Louis Peitzman)

Dzi Croquettes (Tatiana Issa and Raphael Alvarez, Brazil, 2009) Whatever magic fairy dust fuelled The Cockettes' glitter-covered hippy drag must've drifted down south to Brazil to inspire the similarly named Dzi Croquettes. Of course, that's not the real origin of the equally colorful cabaret troupe, whose fantastic story is told in Raphael Alvarez and Tatiana Issa's riveting and rollicking documentary. Blending Ziegfeld Follies-style glamour with agitprop, Dzi Croquettes were more polished and more overtly political than their North American sisters; something which frequently landed the group in hot water with José Sarney's dictatorship. Finding an unlikely and unexpected advocate in Liza Minnelli, Dzi Croquettes fled their homeland in the mid 1970s, becoming the unexpected toast of Europe until AIDS began to take its toll. Filled with delightful archival footage and insightful interviews with alumni, Dzi Croquettes is a joyful affirmation of the power of art (and a feathered boa or two) to effect positive change. Mon/21, 11 a.m., Castro. (Matt Sussman)