Spellbinding debut feature 'Concussion' opens Frameline 37

Stacie Passon and Rose Troche in San Francisco ©Moira Sullivan
The Frameline 37 opening film "Concussion" filled the Castro Theatre to capacity in San Francisco on June 20. On hand were filmmaker Stacie Passon and producer Rose Troche. Troche had been at the Castro 19 years ago as director of the cult classic "Go Fish", and hoped that the experience would be just as good for Passon. Apparently it was, for Passon whipped out a small digital camera to take pictures for her children of the massive audience seated at the Castro waiting to see her film.

"Concussion"will receive its theatrical release in San Francisco in October so the Frameline screening was a peak preview for San Francisco. (Passon and Troche will be featured in an exclusive radio interview for Movie Magazine International San Franciso in the autumn.) This is a smart film with a provocative and captivating script (Passon),  slick edits (Anthony Cupo), brilliant camera work (David Kruta) and a soundtrack that feels Eastern set to Western instruments (composer Barb Morrison and Micki Kaufman,Tommy Mokas).

The film belongs of course to lead actress Robin Weigert who is a master at subtle facial expressions that tell it all without the need for dialogue. An ensemble cast who are equally convincing in their roles supports her.  Weigert plays Abby, a 42-year-old lesbian mom who is ignored by her partner and who doesn’t seem to have much to do. After an accident in which she is hit in the head with a baseball by her son, she decides to redecorate a loft with the help of Justin (Johnathan Tchaikovsky), a young straight man. He has many skills and later sets her up with 'The Girl' (Emily Kinney) who arranges the referrals of rich young college women who are willing to pay for a 'mature situation' with a high scale escort.  Justin somehow even signs up the married Sam (Maggie Siff)  from Abby's community outside New York. 'The Girl' is in law school and just can't get caught, so negotiations are disguised as discussions about home decoration.

Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) seems oblivious to the needs of her partner and apparently regards her home, job and even her children as possessions. Weigert revealed that when the film opened in Berlin where it won the Teddy Award in February 2013, that she was asked if the film was making a statement about the bourgeoisie. It may sound like a strange question in the USA but it is perfectly relevant with the middle class setup of "Concussion" that does not bring a state of ‘Being’ in the existentialist sense. 

The film is a collaborative effort between Rose Troche (who won the Berlin Teddy Award in 1994 for "Go Fish") and Stacie Passon who were clearly enraptured with each other and the cast and crew on stage. Troche is a clever producer and director who has skillfully stewarded Passon in making a film of such extraordinary completion that it is mind boggling it is a first.  Passon’s 'Being' clearly shows and everyone who worked on the project admitted that the film gelled under her direction.

The subject of the film will be familiar to heterosexual as well as LGBT spectators, since monogamy and the acquisition of wealth by established couples, with or without children, can spin out of control over time, and the unknown in the outside world becomes more and more appealing. This is an intriguing subject, which the film explores with enough space for spectators to pose their own questions.

Frameline has corporate sponsors to maintain its operations, and AT&T picked up the tab for opening night. "Concussion" as a first feature is eligible for an awarrd of $7.500 from Wells Fargo in one of several competitive categories, including the Audience Award.

Frameline is a festival where there are world premieres but films like "Concussion" debuted at one of the A line festivals – Sundance --the others are Toronto, Berlin, Cannes, San Sebastian and Venice. The San Francisco festival is a public festival with a ready-made audience given the expanse of the LGBT community in the area. Some directors don’t like their films to be regarded as a “gay film” in order to reach the widest possible audience. Those who choose Frameline for their world premiere know it is just the right spot. Filmmaker Monika Treut calls Frameline, "the Cannes of LGBT filmmaking". Add to LGBT -- a 'Q' for 'queer'.
Passon and Troche at Frameline 37 ©Moira Sullivan


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