Frameline 30 attracts 70,000 attendees

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s a safe bet the half-dozen gay men who got together in 1977 to launch a free one-night screening of 8mm shorts didn’t guess they were setting something gigantic in motion.

With a massive 70,000 attendees 30 years later, the S.F. Intl. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival — or Frameline 30, the current edition’s less formal monicker — remains the first, oldest and largest such event, the one whose example spawned dozens of gay fests worldwide.

The 2006 sked, running June 15-25 at four S.F. venues (and one across the Bay in Oakland), doesn’t provide many filmic flashbacks from those last three decades. But it’s laden with new work by gay fest favorites, starting with opening nighter “Puccini for Beginners,” the long-awaited second feature by Maria Maggenti whose “Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love” launched the fest 11 years ago.

Official closer is Spanish helmer Manuel Gomez Pereira’s Almodovar-esque gay-wedding farce “Queens.”

An S.F. Gay Fest visitor from the beginning of his career, Gallic director Francois Ozon returns June 20 to accept this year’s Frameline Award (“for significant contribution to LGBT film”) and to show his latest feature “Time to Leave,” toplining Melvil Poupaud, Jeanne Moreau and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi. Several Ozon favorites will also be screened, including the all-star camp musical “8 Women.”

Elsewhere, the program comprises 266 total titles from 32 countries, including Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina. World preems include locally made docs “The Kinsey Sicks: I Wanna Be a Republican,” “Why We Sing!” and “Lulu Gets a Facelift,” latter from Marc Heustis, one of the few surviving fest founders who pulled together that first event in 1977.

Among high-profile guests expected are Charles Busch, writer, director and star of “A Very Serious Person”; Gallic drama “Backstage’s” toplining Emmanuelle Seigner; John Cameron Mitchell (“Follow My Voice”); “Puccini” thesp Gretchen Mol; and Oscar winner Freida Lee Mock (“Wrestling With Angels.” Other established helmers skedded to make the scene include Maggenti, Todd Verow (“Vacationland”) and Daniel MacIvor (“Whole New Thing”).

Parallel event taking place June 19-22 at the S.F. LGBT Community Center is Persistent Vision 2006, a “queer media arts” conference planned to occur every five years (first edition was in 2001).

Addressing such topics as alternative distribution routes, the difficulty of getting lesbian features made, and the impact of gay film fests themselves, panels will include industry, artistic and academic personnel including Cheryl Dunye, Jack Walsh, Guinivere Turner, and critic B. Ruby Rich.

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