It's fitting that Frameline38, San Francisco's annual LGBT film festival, kicks off Thursday with the history-in-the-making documentary "The Case Against 8" and closes June 29. with the German dramedy "I Feel Like Disco."

As in previous years, the 11-day festival features an eclectic cinematic mix with a schedule packed with numerous crowd-rousers and crowd-pleasers from around the globe.

This year's festival is as topical as ever, and it shines a spotlight on the LGBT experience in Russia. A number of films, including an insightful documentary from gay porn producer and actor Michael Lucas, are slated to be screened. Lucas will attend the screening of his "Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda" on Sunday.

There's much more worth checking out, so to help make your festival-going experience run smoother, here are mini-reviews of 10 films to see.

"Stand": A gay Russian couple drive by what they suspect is a gay bashing. Their not stopping leads Anton (Renat Shuteev) and, to a lesser extent, Val (Andrey Kurganov) to investigate what happened. Director-writer Jonathan Taieb has produced a powerful, painful and intense statement on the actions we take and don't take. It's a passionate diatribe that is unsettling and surprising. (4 p.m. Friday, 4:15 p.m. June 29; both screenings at the Castro)

"Gerontophilia": Frameline fave Bruce LaBruce tones down his in-your-face filmmaking style with a thought-provoking, sweet-natured drama about a young man (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) who has a thing for much older men. This original topic is handled well and raises questions about how we treat and view the elderly. (9:30 p.m. Friday, the Castro)

"Helicopter Mom": Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") plays an annoyingly overbearing and needy mama who makes the life of her graduating son (Jason Dolley) hellish. Mom has good intentions and even tries to boot her son out of the closet, but is the confused lad even gay? This coy comedy flirts with the idea but doesn't take full advantage of a good premise. Still, it wears cuteness on its sleeve admiringly well. (7 p.m. Saturday, Castro)

"Violette": This outstanding film bio brings to light the achievements of feminist author Violette Leduc (an exceptional Emmanuelle Devos) as well as her doubts and problems. Director and writer Martin Provost ("Seraphine") anchors the story around the volatile Violette's relationship with Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain), the successful author who recognizes and supports her powerhouse prose. "Violette" intimately glimpses into the painful soul of its main character, and conveys the tenor of a time -- after World War II in France -- when women couldn't speak freely about their ideals and feelings. See it. (9:15 p.m. Monday, the Castro)

"To Be Takei": The influential George Takei is best known for having played Sulu on TV's "Star Trek" and his pithy, hilarious Facebook posts. While this compelling documentary looks at both, and includes comments from an uncomfortable-looking William Shatner (Captain Kirk), it also explores Takei's humanitarian actions as a gay rights activist and Japanese internment camp survivor. No matter what he's accomplishing, the 77-year-old exudes boundless energy that's irresistible. (6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Castro, with Takei attending and receiving the Frameline Award)

"Back on Board: Greg Louganis": When we first meet the former Olympic diver in this eye-opening documentary, he's confronting a dire financial future and is about to sell his Malibu home. How did this fate befall a four-time medalist? Was it due to trusting the wrong people? Or was it because of homophobia? Director Cheryl Furjanic plunges into the story and breaks the waves of silence. (4 p.m. Wednesday, the Castro)

"Lilting": Nothing is pat or obvious about Hong Khaou's somber soul gazer about two grieving people: a Cambodian-Chinese mother (a convincing Cheng Pei-pei) and her late son's lover (an exceptional Ben Whishaw). A translator helps the unlikely duo try to come up with a common language. Khaou is an impressionistic filmmaker and creates a mournful atmosphere as the characters struggle to make a connection and deal with issues surrounding the death of someone they both dearly loved. (6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Castro)

"Open Up to Me": Simo Halinen's multihued psychological portrait is populated with complicated characters grappling with sexuality and struggling with dissatisfaction. Anchored around a perceptive performance by Leea Klemola as a transgender woman in love with a married soccer coach, "Open Up to Me" could have collapsed into hammy soap but exists at a higher plane thanks to Klemola and Halinen. (9:15 p.m. Wednesday, the Castro)

"Cupcakes": Prepare for some sugarcoated peppiness as a close-knit group of neighbors in Tel Aviv, Israel, land a spot in a popular international song contest that finds nearly everyone huddling around their TV sets. Filmmaker Eytan Fox ("Yossi & Jagger") has made far more substantial fare, but this fluffy little number is addictive and sweet. (8:30 p.m. June 28, the Castro)

"The Third One": Just call it "My Threesome with Andre." Filmmaker Rodrigo Guerrero cooks up a spicy stew with a provocative feature about a couple inviting a young online exhibitionist over for dinner and a ménage à trois. Guerrero's naturalistic staging makes its audiences voyeurs to the action. But Guerrero really didn't need to splice in porn images in the first half of the film. They add nothing. There's no denying, however, that this explicit film blurs the lines in unforgettably sexy ways. (9:15 p.m. June 28, Victoria Theatre)

Film Festival

What: Frameline38, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
When: Thursday through June 29
Where: Various San
Francisco and Berkeley venues
Cost: $8-$12 per film;
additional cost for
special events
Tickets, schedule:
www.frameline.org/festival