QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST 2015 is here people!! So exciting, an amazing line-up of films this year and we have reviewed a few of them. It started this past Tuesday 22nd of September and finishes this Sunday 27th September with all screenings at Event Cinemas George St. I must apologise, I wanted to get more of our reviews up prior to the festival commencing but I have been in and out of bed with a five week four day (currently) flu that has been taking it out of me and I am articles and articles behind. To kick it off we have a satirical movie about lesbian hustlers that has fully sold out at the festival, so sadly you will miss this one at the festival but you should be able to find it on online VOD sites if it interests you. Enjoy Kernel Morgan’s review and suss the full list of movies screening at the festival HERE…….support our brothers and sisters and get to the festival if in Sydney…….all the best……….JK.
From the creative team that brought you CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME comes another awkward lesbian parody film, directed by Madeleine Olnek and starring Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Susan Ziegler, Jennifer Prediger, and Alex Karpovsky. This time the point of reference is male hustler films, primarily MIDNIGHT COWBOY, but also MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, AMERICAN GIGOLO, and THREE OF HEARTS.
THE FOXY MERKINS is a micro-budget satirical film that has heart. It is set on the gritty streets of New York, but is light in feel, and follows the adventures and mishaps of two lesbian hustlers. The thing that makes this film more than a series of deadpan skits is the story arc of the protagonist Margaret, our plus-sized, short-haired street walker in a loose t-shirt and jeans. The opening scene with a frustrated up-tight business woman trying to solicit her services is mirrored beautifully with an end scene where the same actor, Jennifer Prediger, is a relaxed mulching environmentalist. Margaret’s journey comes full circle, and despite all the fun and frivolity the precedes it, we see Margaret is simply seeking some human warmth and could never be happy working a scam.
I have seen a couple of movies lately featuring a big butch lesbian as the lead, and the diversity on screen is great to finally see. Michelle Ehlen wrote and starred in BUTCH JAMIE, and its sequel HETROSEXUAL JILL, where she plays an actor who can take male acting roles. Kathy Bates took on a supporting role in TAMMY as one half of a lesbian couple with Sandra Oh, she had short grey hair, no make-up, and loose gender neutral outfits. And of course we now have Lea DeLaria portraying Carrie “Big Boo” Black in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, where several episodes have been dedicated to studying the psychology and inner motivations of her character, a big gay woman fully fleshed-out.
Skinny lipstick lesbians have for some time been the only kind of queer women audiences see. Model-thin femmes, like those featured in THE L WORD, BOUND, IMAGINE ME & YOU, ELENA UNDONE, KISSING JESSICA STEIN, and MULHOLLAND DRIVE, monopolise the lesbian film niche. It is endlessly refreshing to see a genuine bull dyke in a film. Someone with glasses and a round stomach and a fresh face. Lisa Haas has a scene of full frontal nudity in this film and it is a revelation. It’s about time women’s bodies and gender presentation in films about the queer community were more representational of reality. It was a fight to see queer people represented in film at all, and it will be a bit more of a fight to see queer women of varying shapes and sizes and clothing styles.
This film is a comedy, but it does tangentially touch on a few real issues. The two central characters represent the two types of prostitutes that populate so many debates on sex work. There is Jo (Jackie Monahan) who is heterosexual and from a wealthy family but chooses to be a sex worker because she likes it. She prides herself on how many women she has slept with, pointing them out in an amusing continuous loop as she walks down the street, and gets a thrill from the hustle and the street lifestyle. Then there’s Margaret (Lisa Haas) who is genuinely down on her luck, homeless, and pushed to hooking due to desperation. This is an irreverent buddy comedy but it also speaks volumes about choice and consent.
Another real issue is the invisibility of homeless people. Jo and Margaret sleep at the Port Authority bus stop bathrooms, Jo rolls out from under the sinks unexpectedly, and Margaret emerges from a sheet of clear plastic (a painting or renovation drop sheet). They store booze in the cubicle. They know which restaurants will let them come inside and sit for an unlimited amount of time
The film also satirises police violence towards black people – a rich customer (Susan Ziegler, who is a stand-out in this film) has a fetish for police bursting into her hotel room when she is engaging Margaret’s service, and her black maid is shot on sight, no questions asked – and the ability for the wealthy to alter perceptions of reality for their own amusement.
Alex Karpovsky of GIRLS fame (Shoshana’s love interest Ray) plays a shady merkin salesman who approaches Jo and Margaret in a graveyard with samples of the pubic hair toupees. There are not many men in this film, another thing that makes the project distinct. This is a notable film for passing the Bechdel Test and the Russo Test for film. The former testing for significant female roles where women speak to each other about topics other than men, and the latter having a queer character central to the storyline who is not defined purely by their sexuality or gender.
This film is a little piece of modern history. It is off-beat and has low production value, and some of the humour is obviously regional in-jokes, but it is bringing something new, something you’ve never seen before, and something of value. It was the lowest budget narrative feature in the Sundance 2014 film festival and had its international premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival in the face of hostility towards queer people in Russia.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her debut collection was SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted and stalked at @queenboxi.