Frameline 2013 Report: Day 5 – “Valentine Road”

imageWhile some of the best LGBT themed films were happening inside the Castro theatre, outside there was this (pic above) going on. No, that’s not a gay pride zombie invasion, it’s a celebratory gathering in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. And as much as I would have been perfectly content to join my fellow Californians in their jubilant overtaking of the Castro District I had a movie to see. Besides, it’s not like the first beautifully clear day we’ve had all week is going to just disappear in the next two hours. After all, this is the week leading up to the Gay Pride Parade, and for as long as I’ve been in San Francisco (wow, almost 9 years already) Pride has always found a way to take place under cloudless sun-filled skies. I don’t see why this year would be any different.

GjpeSf1_PIqJErFgoWDgLf6kfXXMhOoqwOZYVU0Lj2MDear Frameline Staff,

             As an avid attendee of numerous film festivals, as well as acting press for your festival, I would like to make a suggestion. If you are going to continue to screen powerful tear-inducing movies will you please provide your audience with some tissues? Not only will I thank you, but the non-rain-resistant Castro Theatre interior will too. Maybe you can invite the Kleenex Corporation to co-sponser screenings such as these and hand out those little pocket-size packages of their tears-be-gone miracle wipes at the door. I hope you take this suggestion into serious consideration. Now that that’s out of the way, on with the review.

 four-stars4A postcard advertisement promoting tourism this is not. Not wanting to go into any specifics for fear of ruining your own experience with this deeply moving film, here is what I will say.

Director Marta Cunningham‘s directorial debut is as an impressive duel-sided exposé on the circumstances surrounding the murder of Oxnard California resident and openly trans child, Larry King, not the famous interviewer, but the young eighth-grader who was murdered in cold blood by his homophobic aggressor and classmate. Not to worry, that’s not a spoiler as it is made clear to us from the opening scene.

In her digging into the community of Oxnard, Cunningham leaves no stone unturned, thus conveying a well-rounded glimpse of a very troubled city. She interviews close friends, family, and legal representatives of both the murdered victim and the murderer. The result is a film in where both sides are given equal screen-time, and the use of commonplace non-fiction manipulatory filmmaking tools such as music and objective editing are applied only to accent the emotional heftiness of such an ordeal. These tools are never used to sway the viewer into sympathizing with one of the parties more than the other, though it was clear from the emotionally riled audience I was with just whom their sympathies lied with – and rightfully so.

Here’s what I learned from Valentine Road: Even if we as a society condemn those who commit homophobic crimes to the fullest extent of the law, without seeking to rehabilitate the ignorance and intolerance being perpetuated generation after generation Larry King’s death would have been in vain. Take it from me, you don’t have to fall under the LGBT umbrella in order to stand up for the civil rights of your fellow human brothers and sisters.

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Categories: Frameline, Reviews

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