SAN FRANCISCO — Canadian titles grabbed the lion’s share of audience awards at the close of the 21st San Francisco Intl. Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 29.

John Greyson’s complex period drama “Lilies” earned best feature, as well as a five-minute standing ovation during final credit crawl at its June 26 Castro Theatre show. (His even newer, more experimental feature, “Uncut,” also won major applause at the Roxie two days later.) Rumored as a near-tie for the same nod was Canadian immigrant Deepa Mehta’s “Fire,” set in her native India. Intriguingly, both pics are multileveled, lyric narratives with crossover potential toward non-gay arthouse trade; both roll out Stateside this fall.

Aud ballots for best short again went to Canuck product, Chris Deacon’s “Twisted Sheets.” Best documentary prize, at least, stayed homeward-bound, via Monte Bramer’s U.S. “Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End.”

The S.F. Gay Fest has reported significant B.O. gains for many years, but 1997′s tally is outstanding: A 48% one-year attendance leap (to an estimated 75,000), with 57 programs sold out among 111 at the Castro, Roxie and Victoria Theatres.

Official closing-night selection, the Brit transsexual romance “Different for Girls,” was another big source of aud buzzdom, as were opener “I Think I Do” and fellow U.S. indie features “Some Prefer Cake,” “It’s in the Water,” “Kiss Me Guido,” “Defying Gravity,” “The Delta” and “All the Rage.”

Acknowledging the infamous vocality of Gay Fest, several filmmakers half-jokingly introduced their flicks by begging for a cease-fire in hissing. That plea didn’t help much when gut-reaction broke during the fest’s few generally acknowledged bombs, such as Miami-shot lesbian love story “Entwined” or male L.A. seriocomedy “Leather Jacket Love Story.” The S.F. Lesbian & Gay Intl. aud knows what it likes — and remains giddily loud-and-proud about what it doesn’t.

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