33 Questions with Allegra Madsen

Jun 22, 2021

With much of Frameline45 taking place online and in the comfort of your living rooms, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for festival-goers to meet Frameline’s new Director of Programming, Allegra Madsen, outside of their screens. To help introduce Allegra while her first Festival is underway, we came up with 33 rapid-fire questions covering a wide range of exciting topics.

What's the first book you remember loving? 

The very first book I loved was Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak. I carried it around with me like a sacred text. There was something about the oldest child taking on the responsibility of holding the family together that resonated with me. That and the main character had really big feet, and I felt a real kinship with that. 

The first book that had a real lasting impact on how I saw and understood the world was Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I read it when I was way too young, and it scared me in all the right places.

If you could come back to life as any animal, what would it be? 

Probably something that lives in the deepest reaches of the ocean that humans have yet to explore. After this life as a human, I think I’ll need a little time to myself. 

Favorite Bay Area food joint? 

Well, this is a story of our times. My favorite Bay Area food spot was Alibaba’s Cave on Valencia, but it’s closed now. So, I’m on the lookout for really good falafel. I also really love Platano in Berkeley because pupusas…  

Best music concert you ever attended? 

It’s a tie. Beyoncé’s Lemonade tour because it was freaking amazing, and Janelle Monáe because I accidentally stumbled into the front row and Janelle and I made eye contact.  

Who would you want to narrate your memoirs for the audiobook? 

Regina King. I love her voice. 

Name a film you never tire of watching. 

Raising Arizona. It tickles me every time. 

Name a song you never tire of hearing. 

“The Girl from Ipanema.” It’s a very strange song that is generally thought of as so innocuous that it’s sort of white noise. But when you pick it apart and really listen to it, the melodies are nothing short of haunting and scary. I love that disconnect. How did this haunting sound come to signal everything is okay? 

Then you throw on top the cultural histories and layering that had to take place for this song to exist. The Afro-Brazilian Samba roots of bossa nova layered with American Jazz influences representing wildly different cultures and great distances coming together to make a song that we totally take for granted. I don’t want to get too nerdy, but if I were trapped on a deserted island and the only song I could listen to was “The Girl from Ipanema,” I would be alright. 

Who would you cast as yourself in a biopic? 

Rihanna. I assume there will be an exceptional amount creative license taken to make this story interesting, so I’m going to go with Rihanna.

What are three things you look for when watching a film? 

I look for a connection. Can I understand why the story is unfolding the way that it is... can I understand the decisions being made... do they make sense in the context the film has set up? It isn’t necessarily “would I make that choice?” but “can I understand why a person would make this choice?” 

I look for a surprise. Something that makes me say, “I never looked at it that way,” or “that is an interesting way to convey that message.”  

And I look for something that sticks with me. Does this story pop into my mind when I’m grocery shopping or walking the dog? 

Dream destination? 

Atacama Desert in Chile. The absence of light pollution there makes it an almost unique spot for a pure view of the night sky. I was really taken with this documentary Cielo from a few years ago, and it has really stuck with me. I think it would be awesome to experience this unpolluted view of the cosmos and to consider our place in the infinite. For me, it creates feelings of both powerlessness and power; the universe is vast, and our place within the infinite is small... but our place exists, and it is real.   

That or a beach somewhere.  

Name a seminal queer film that left an impression on you from your youth. 

The Color Purple. I still try to take notice whenever I see the color purple because I don’t want to piss off God. 

Favorite Olympic sport?

Women’s Beach Volleyball... any other response is wrong.  

Which character from Living Single are you? 

Max, with a little Khadijah thrown in.  

Who was your first celebrity crush? 

Whitney Houston. 

What fashion accessory can you not live without? 

Cute sneakers.  

In your opinion, what actor has never given a bad performance? 

Kate Winslet. I may just be obsessed with Mare of Easttown right now.  

First celebrity crush? 

This time I’ll say Lisa Bonet. I’m glad you asked this twice, because the list is long. Oooooh! Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I could keep going.   

What’s your Zodiac sign? 

Aries. 

Favorite podcast at the moment? 

It really depends on my mood. If I want to know about the world and not cry, then Lovett or Leave It. Sometimes I just need celebrity gossip and to feel like I’m hanging out with friends, and then it is The Read. And finally, Welcome to Night Vale because sometimes I want to go to a place where aliens and angels are real. 

What is the most widely misunderstood film you can think of? 

The Matrix. 

What is your go-to playing piece in Monopoly?  

What?!!? I don’t play Monopoly! It’s a game glorifying the horrors of capitalism and gentrification. Well, if forced to show that I’m not a killjoy, I’ll choose the top hat because I’m classy.  

What change in the world would you like to see happen in your lifetime? 

Real, pro-active, science-based, political, social, and culture shifts that address the climate crisis.  

Favorite word in the English language?

Hella. 

Favorite singer? 

Whitney Houston. 

Best unsolicited advice you ever received? 

When I first moved to Chicago for college, I was really not used to busy city streets. I was at a crosswalk in the South Loop when the light changed and I stepped into the street. This total stranger grabbed me and pulled me back on the sidewalk right before a city bus ran the light. He said, “Watch the cars, not the lights. Light never hit nobody.” I think this is excellent advice for walking, driving, or biking in SF. 

Name a song you know all the words to. 

This is a long list. I’m really good at remembering song lyrics. I’m also good at adjusting song lyrics to fit my current situation. My youngest daughter really thinks that Sade’s “Smooth Operator” is actually “Smooth Cooperator,” and it is all about a person that cooperates and helps their family out.  

Describe your first impression of the Bay Area upon moving here. 

I had just moved from LA, and my first thought was “home at last.” 

Name a film/album/work of art that you were initially unsure of that eventually grew on you. 

Blonde by Frank Ocean. 

Top 3 albums of the millennium? 

A Seat at the Table, Solange 

Whack World, Tierra Whack 

New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), Erykah Badu 

Favorite author? 

Kurt Vonnegut or Octavia Butler. 

What up-and-coming artist has been on your mind lately? 

Lil Nas X. If he is representative, the future looks really fun and really queer. 

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I have no guilt, only pleasures.  

I like to eat cake in bed and watch Murder She Wrote. 

I love spending beautiful sunny days inside. 

I love going to the beach when it’s overcast.  

Any recent trends in film/television/media that excite you? 

I love the trend toward greater diversity and representation both in the stories that we see and the people telling those stories. I’m excited about all the nuanced queer stories that are beginning to pop up in film and TV. It also seems that we are stepping beyond the coming out story and seeing a lot more images of queer people navigating the world. It feels more real and more representative of the queer experience.