SF Lesbian & Gay Fest sets sked

Opening with Cholodenko's Sundance-winner 'High Art'

SAN FRANCISCO — After seeing dramatic attendance leaps in the last several years, the San Francisco Intl. Lesbian & Gay Film Festival’s 22nd annum is expanding from 10 to 11 programming days. Event unspools June 18-28 at the city’s Castro, Victoria and Roxie venues.

Opener is the October Films pickup and recent Sundance prize-winner, Lisa Cholodenko’s edgy drama “High Art.” Despite pic’s advance critical buzz, it will be interesting how this heroin-addled lesbian drama plays to the fest aud — which, in the past, has bridled when given non-feel-good fare on “party” nights. Helmer and stars Ally Sheedy and Radha Mitchell are expected to attend.

Less likely to stoke controversy is the serio-comic closing selection, fellow Sundance preemer “Relax … It’s Just Sex” by prior SF Gay Fest aud award-winner P.J. Castellaneta (“Together Alone”), who will bring along his topliners Jennifer Tilly, Lori Petty and Mitchell Anderson.

Several other ’98 Sundance titles figure prominently, including Jimmy Smallhorne’s gritty Irish-emigre portrait “2×4,” plus docs “Party Monster” and “Out of the Past.”

Offshore feature highlights include the West African drama “Dakan,” Zhang Yuan’s Chinese-French “East Palace, West Palace,” Greek-French biopic “Cavafy,” U.K.’s “Like It Is,” the Spanish “Honey I’ve Sent the Men to the Moon,” Germany’s “Sex/Life in L.A.” and Turkish “Steam.”

World preem of ‘Hard’

Among the 281 vid and film works from 24 countries to be screened is world preem of John Huckert’s violent American indie thriller “Hard,” plus U.S. preems for U.S. comedy “Totally Confused,” Boy George-narrated Brit “fairy tale,” “The Wolves of Kromer” and Canadian docu “Erotica: A Journey Into Female Sexuality.”

At kickoff press conference, fest director Michael Lumpkin said, “It’s a great thing for queer cinema that so much is being made,” and suggested the ongoing boost in submissions has allowed the fest to be “more selective … more in control of what the festival looks like.”

Despite booking of a June 19 panel discussion entitled “Why Are There So Few Lesbian Features?” sked itself evidences no such shortage, with notable titles, beyond those mentioned above, encompassing “Desert Hearts” helmer Donna Deitch’s new docu about her cancer-felled actor friend Gwen Welles, “Angel on My Shoulder”; plus Susan Murska and Greta Olafsdottir’s crossdresser-bashing nonfiction “The Brandon Teena Story.”

‘The Real Ellen Story’

Full-length vids likely to attract attention are “k.d. lang — Live in Sydney”; stand-up comic Karen Reno’s star-studded “docudramedy” “Reno Finds Her Mom”; the complex look at erstwhile abortion-rights players “Roe vs. Roe”; and “The Real Ellen Story.”

Fest administration hopes to lure latter’s ever-controversial subject Ellen DeGeneres (and g.f. Anne Heche) up north for its June 19 screening.

The 1998 Frameline Award goes on opening night to “High Art” producer Dolly Hall — also a force behind other ’90s gay pics “The Wedding Banquet,” “The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love” and upcoming disco-era study “54.”

Another in-person honoree is seminal Warhol Factory glamazon Holly Woodlawn, who will appear before June 27 reprise of her biggest moment, Paul Morrissey’s 1970 “Trash.”

Special sidebars emphasize representation of bisexuals and female-to-male-transsexuals on screen; there’s also a “Queer Innovators” series retrospecting avant-garde works from Kenneth Anger through Barbara Hammer, Marlon Riggs and Su Friedrich.

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