AHEAD OF THE CURVE is the story of one of the most influential women in lesbian history you’ve never heard of and the impact her work continues to have today. Growing up, Franco never saw any representation of queer women–she didn’t even know it was possible for a woman to be gay. When she realized she was a lesbian, it changed the course of her life.
In 1990, Franco created a safe place for lesbians in the form of Curve magazine. Her approach to threats and erasure in the ‘90s was to lift all kinds of lesbians up and make them beautifully visible. The magazine helped build a foundation for many intersectional movements being led by today’s activists in the face of accelerating threats to the LGBTQ community. Decades later, as her legacy faces extinction and she reassesses her life after a disabling injury, she sets out to understand visibility work being led by an intersection of queer women today. Featuring Andrea Pino-Silva, Kim Katrin, Denice Frohman, Amber Hikes, Jewelle Gomez, Melissa Etheridge, and Lea DeLaria, and a score composed by the legendary Meshell Ndegeocello, AHEAD OF THE CURVE celebrates the legacy of a movement while considering the agenda of its future.
Context & Values
Our culture is in the midst of significant cultural shifts around women, immigrant stories, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the disability community. Queer women, Women of Color, and non-binary folk are leading — as they always have — and the recent Supreme Court ruling around our employment protections not withstanding, conservative forces have unleashed a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation aimed at rolling back our hard-won gains and erasing recognition and protection of LGBTQ+ people entirely. Visibility and representation are the most powerful tools in existence to protect LGBTQ+ folk, and Franco Stevens knew this 30 years ago. Her work helped move the nation forward socially and politically by creating space, visibility, and empathy for anyone who identified as lesbian. Today’s young activists understand this intrinsically. Modern visibility work such as that being done by Kim Katrin, Denice Frohman, Andrea Pino-Silva, and Amber Hikes flourishes when queer women gather in community groups and through conferences like Lesbians Who Tech and Clexacon. At the heart of this visibility work are the twin truths of radical self-love and the idea that you must be able to “see it to be it.” These stories weave through the film to connect the intersectional visibility that Franco fought for through her magazine nearly 30 years ago with the creative, provocative incarnations of visibility work today.
Our core values of community, visibility, and justice, values that called Franco to start and then fight for her magazine, shape this film. We worked with an all female-identified crew, celebrated the many different ways that queer women present in the world, and told a story to bring different generations together to continue the fight for our rights. Like Kim Katrin says in our film, we believe in “being the authors of our own experiences”. We believe that the way we tell stories is as meaningful as the stories we tell, so telling this story and following Franco’s model around inclusivity offered a huge opportunity for us to contribute to a more expansive and intersectional vision of the community.
Cast & Crew
Franco Stevens founded the most successful lesbian magazine in the world, raising lesbian visibility in a way that connected the lesbian community, created the lesbian market for advertisers, helped the lesbian community accept femme-identifying lesbians, changed the way lesbians are seen by the mainstream, highlighted the transgender experience, brought attention to lesbian families, raised awareness of attacks on LGBT rights, and amplified the work of lesbian activists.
Kim Katrin is an award winning internationally acclaimed educator, writer & artist. She has been recognized as one of The Root’s “Young Feminists to Watch,” and celebrated in Canada as 2016’s National Youth Role Model and nationally as one of the 50 Most Loved Gay Canadians. Kim speaks at universities and contributes to the press throughout Canada and the US about human rights and equity issues.
Denice Frohman is an award-winning poet, educator, performer and speaker. She has been commissioned by The Met, ESPN and Twitter. She has been a featured speaker at over 200 colleges and universities; and hundreds of K-12 schools, community arts spaces, non-profit organizations, detention centers, and conferences across the country, including The White House. As a queer, mixed Latina woman, her work explores the tension between the stories we tell about ourselves, the ones told about us, and the ones we tell about each other
Amber Hikes is a social justice advocate, community organizer, and unapologetic queer Black woman. As the ACLU’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, she provides vision, leadership, and direction for the ACLU’s nationwide strategy to support equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) across all aspects of the organization’s work and efforts. Amber serves as both the internal and external ambassador on the importance of EDI as a crucial cornerstone of the ACLU’s culture of belonging.
Featured Cast & Impact Producer
Author, speaker, digital strategy expert, unapologetic storyteller, and fearless advocate for survivors of sexual assault and LGBTQ people of color, Andrea L. Pino-Silva is committed to bringing together grassroots organizing and radical storytelling to build intersectional and accessible social movements from the National Center for Lesbian Rights to End Rape on Campus. The daughter of Cuban refugees, Andrea’s activism and advocacy have been featured in the New York Times, Vogue, CNN, Good Morning America, Huffpost, and Bill Maher. Her work and personal journey is featured in the Emmy-award winning The Hunting Ground (Sundance 2015).
Director & Co-Producer
Jen Rainin founded Frankly Speaking Films with Rivkah Beth Medow in 2020 to produce media that centers strong LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people to increase visibility and spark change. Jen focuses her filmmaking on building community, deepening understanding of social justice issues, and telling great stories. Her EP credits include STAGE LEFT (2011), a documentary about the history of theater in the Bay Area, TWO SPIRITS (2009), a documentary about gender identity in Native American cultures which aired on Independent Lens, and HOMEROOM (2021), a documentary about Oakland’s education system. AHEAD OF THE CURVE (2020) was Jen’s directorial debut.
Rivkah Beth Medow
Producer & Co-Director
Rivkah Beth Medow founded Frankly Speaking Films with Jen Rainin in 2020 to produce media that centers strong LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people to increase visibility and spark change. Rivkah makes character-driven films that deepen social or ecological connections and draw communities together. Her credits include AHEAD OF THE CURVE (2020); SONS OF A GUN (2009; PBS); BEING GEORGE CLOONEY (2016; Netflix); THE NINE by Katy Grannan (2016, Festivals); and THE NEXT FRONTIER (2010, PBS).
Meshell Ndegeocello is an authentic musical thinker and an uncompromising artist. A bass player above all else, Meshell brings her warm, fat, and melodic groove to everything she does and has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. Meshell’s composing credits include QUEEN SUGAR and THE HOUSE ON COCO ROAD.
Lindsey Dryden is an Emmy®-winning filmmaker, a proud founding member of Queer Producers Collective and FWD-DOC, and a fellow of BAFTA/BFI Flare, Guiding Lights, Good Pitch and HotDocs Forum. She produced UNREST (2017; PBS, Netflix) and TRANS IN AMERICA (2018; SXSW, Conde Nast), and her directing credits include LOST AND SOUND (2012; SXSW) and JACKIE KAY: ONE PERSON, TWO NAMES (2017, Tate Queer British Art).
Lauren McBride is an independent film producer from Atlanta, GA and is currently based in Oakland, CA. She is a 2017 Sundance Creative Producing Lab Fellow and a 2018 Film Independent Producing Lab Fellow. Her first feature film, SELAH AND THE SPADES, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Jessica Congdon’s credits include the award-winning feature-length documentary DOLORES (Sundance 2017). She produced, wrote and edited the documentary films THE MASK YOU LIVE IN (Sundance 2015) and MISS REPRESENTATION (Sundance 2011) with Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
Svetlana Cvetko is an award-winning cinematographer with a dual focus in documentary and fiction. Her credits include INSIDE JOB, which received the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL (Sundance 2013), and RED ARMY (Cannes 2014).
Clare Major is a cinematographer and documentary filmmaker based in Oakland, California. She has filmed on four continents and specializes in stories that illuminate the lives of women and the intersections of cultures. She was Director of Photography on WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS, which premiered at SXSW in 2019.
Mariam Dwedar is an Egyptian-Filipina cinematographer and filmmaker. Mariam was recognized by DOCNYC, America’s largest documentary festival, as one of ’40 Under 40′ rising stars in documentary filmmaking.