It was Katy Perry who once proclaimed, “California girls / We’re unforgettable / Daisy Dukes / Bikinis on top.” Though not Daisy Dukes, the shorts of Frameline42’s “Fun in Girls Shorts” film collection embody the spirit that Perry invokes, each film portraying women wholly unforgettable.
Beyond the fact that whoever named the collection deserves a raise, the annual “Fun in Girls Shorts” collections have the potential to present some of the best of the Frameline film festival, to tell an abundance of diverse stories by a myriad of filmmakers. In this year’s iteration, each of the seven short films ranges from five to 19 minutes in length and tells a unique, queer woman-focused story, each one deliciously humorous.
The shortest of this year’s shorts, a subtitled Swedish film titled “Children Alike,” left its audience in as much shock as its characters, earning the masterfully staged five-minute short by far the loudest roar of applause and laughter of the afternoon.
“Lesbehonest: I’ll Be All Right” is especially surreal and hilarious in its lack of narrative cohesion. Filled with gay “in jokes,” the film is a story undeniably for queer people, hinged upon the age-old lesbian-gay man friendship. The film’s start was rocky with its poorly acted introduction, but lead actress Ivy Hong’s irreverent dancing through Brooklyn as Blaire quickly won over the audience — it’s Hong’s charisma that carries the film through its 19-minute run time.
The collection only falters with BuzzFeed alumna Gaby Dunn’s “Dick Sisters,” a confusing 10-minute flick met with scattered applause rather than the deafening thunder that followed most shorts. Its quick-witted one-liners couldn’t make up for awkward staging and perhaps the worst twist of the collection — pray tell how, in a collection about queer women, a film where the twist is that the women are queer makes any sense?
While all films vastly differed in subject matter, almost all were alike in the femininity of the actresses portraying the central queer women. “Where are the butches?” the rough voice of an audience member called out during a sponsored advertisement before the collection even began, and their question remained relevant throughout. Most of the presented shorts told the stories of white, upper-class, cisgender, conventionally attractive women.
“Finally!” yelled the same voice as Angelo Duncan’s face filled the screen in the opening shot of “Dyke Bars Never Last,” the collection’s finale and a music video. Centering on San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ bar scene, the video represented the queer people who rarely make it into mainstream media coverage, showing (in their words) the motorcycle babes and femme doms and leather daddies.
But as the sole film to fill this role, it cast an unflattering light upon the rest of the collection. Maybe next year, we won’t have to wonder where the butches are — or, for that matter, where the shorts without majority-white, majority-cisgender casts are. Daisy Dukes, bikinis and outright femininity shouldn’t be a requirement for portrayals of LGBTQ+ women, after all.