LGBTQ & Silent Comedy: Two upcoming virtual festivals

Two annual Bay Area festivals will run in virtual mode in the next two weeks:


Website; Thursday June 25 – Sunday, June 28

In its 44th year, the world’s oldest LGBTQ film festival is smaller this year, bringing only 19 feature films, along with shorts, into your living room. To make it more like a film fest and less like an evening at home, films will be preceded with introductions and followed by question and answer sessions with the filmmakers.

Ahead of the Curve

But you can actually see one film in a theater – or to be more precise – in an outside theater. You can see the documentary Ahead of the Curve, about Curve Magazine, at the West Wind Solano Drive-In in Concord, on Saturday, 9:00. If you don’t want the drive-in experience, you can stream the film at home at the same time.

If you’re not used to streaming films that aren’t on YouTube or Netflix, the Frameline website provides a very useful tutorial to help you get that stream onto your TV.

I’ve seen one of the films screening, and I liked it very much. Tahara puts teenage angst into a pressure cooker, in one day at a synagogue, to get some interesting results. A girl in the congregation has committed suicide, and now her peers and their parents much try to deal with their emotions. On that awful day, Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece) discovers that she’s gay. But how can she deal with this discovery when her best friend is the extremely straight and sometimes cruel and vapid Hannah. Director Olivia Peace chose to shoot most of the film in a square aspect ratio, creating the sense of claustrophobia.


DeFreece is the only African American in the cast, and no one ever mentions that she’s a Jew of Color. I don’t know if director Peace chose her because she gave the best audition (she’s excellent), or to separate her visually from her peers.

I give Tahara a B+.

You can stream Tahara from Thursday, June 25 to Sunday, June 28 – midnight to midnight. A 1:15pm screening on Saturday will be followed by a live Q&A.

Some of the films that I haven’t seen but seem promising include:

  • Breaking Fast: A gay Muslim man looks for love.
  • Welcome to Chechnya: This documentary follows a group of LGBTQ activists in Russia – a very dangerous place to be.
  • Lingua Franca: An undocumented trans woman falls for her charge’s grandson.

  • Breaking Fast

Charlie Chaplin Days

Website; Friday, June 26 – Sunday, June 28

Every June, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum hosts the only annual Bay Area film festival celebrating a single filmmaker. For the first time (and hopefully the last), the Museum will do the festival online.

The festival will stream some of Chaplin’s works, pointers to other films streaming elsewhere, along with documentaries and Zoom discussions.

For instance, starting Friday and throughout the weekend, you can freely stream five Chaplin shorts from his Essanay period, each with its own introduction, that show Chaplin’s growth in his second year in films. The shorts are A Night Out, The Champion, In the Park, A Jitney Elopement, and The Tramp.

The Tramp

Some other tempting choices:


  • If you have Amazon Prime, you can see Richard Attenborough’s biopic, Chaplin free. I remember being disappointed by it, but I loved Robert Downey Jr.’s star performance.
  • John Bengston made a career of searching out silent comedy locations, and his presentations are always fascinating.
  • I haven’t seen it, but Vaudeville in the time of the Little Tramp sounds fascinating.

Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin


  • A live interview with David Robinson, the author of Chaplin, His Life and Art. 10:00am on Zoom.
  • Chaplin’s Film Mystery: A short documentary on Chaplin’s lost films.
  • Sidney, the Other Chaplin: A documentary about Charlie’s older half-brother and business partner. Streaming free all week.


  • Making the Tramp: I assume this will be a discussion on the creation of the Tramp character.
  • From the Archives: Charlie Look-Alike Contests from past years.
  • Shoulder Arms with musical accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis.