5 New Queer Documentaries on Queer Day 2018 by IDFA
November 19, IDFA (International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam) held the sixth edition of Queer Day. Queer Day 2018 kicked off with a video essay by queer artist Finn Paul, followed by a visit to Rio de Janeiro through the eyes of transgender icon Luana Muniz and a look into the life of Mexican wrestler Cassandro de Exotico. The day winded up with a portrait of performance artist Linn da Quebrada in Bixa Travesty with a live performance by Guillermo Blinker (OTION) and ended with an intimate portrait of a porn star in Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life In between these last two films, the audience was welcome at the Queer Drinks in the foyer of EYE. I could not stay until the very end, but I can tell you what I thought of the first four documentaries.
First documentary on Queer Day 2018: Beside the water, 1999-2004 by Finn Paul
Info by IDFA: Queer artist Finn Paul tells the story of transgender sexual awakening in this provocative video essay that looks back at the early 2000s when transgender lives were less visible. He energetically combines both history and photographs of lovers to create a personal story of sexual discovery. Real and imaginary events blend in a mix of erotic snapshots, found footage, home videos, postcards, and desert landscapes. At the same time, he criticizes the misconceptions about queer people that existed at the time.
Finn Paul not only delves into his own personal collection but also creates new, imagined images. This way, he proposes alternative ways to bring a trans-past to the surface of his memory. This unconventional video diary rewrites the past to herald a queer future, with a place for pleasure, sincerity, and beauty.
An essay film is not the type of movie I usually watch. There were some moving images but mostly photos. It was interesting to see and hear these different types of footage, such as listening to a voicemail and watching a photo of an envelope that once contained a love letter. It is exactly why I love visiting film festivals; they open up a world to you that you may not have looked for yourself. It felt like a visit to the museum while simply sitting in your chair. So, I am happy that IDFA and the director offered me this opportunity. It is definitely a creative piece of work.
In terms of story or impact, it did not really move me personally but I can understand that if you are transgender yourself, this short documentary can be of much value to you given the fact that much transgender history is erased or hidden.
Second documentary on Queer Day 2018: Obscuro Barroco by Evangelia Kranioti
Info by IDFA: [This] is a spellbinding, hallucinatory film essay that wanders off the beaten narrative track and takes us to Rio de Janeiro, the go-to city for anyone wanting to transform into a new version of themselves at the exhilarating, gender-bending carnival, or one of the many nightclubs for the queer scene.
This visual homage meanders through the steamy clubs, the vivid carnival parades with their buttock-shaking dancers, and the raging protests, before drifting onwards into the nocturnal streets of Rio, a city of extremes where queer culture is in full bloom.
Our guide and narrator is the famous Brazilian transgender activist Luana Muniz (1961-2017), who is sensual and melancholy as she recites lines of poetry from Clarice Lispector’s experimental monologue Água Viva. Reflections on identity, aging, and self-expression all flow into the lights of Rio. Political events that herald a new conservative era seep into the background of this dizzying dream.
I do not really know what to say about this documentary. It felt very much like a dream. You see Luana Muniz but not enough to establish a real connection with her. You see many different images from Rio, which offer very bright and beautiful colors. In the meantime, you hear this poem being recited. I was constantly wondering what it all meant. As a result, I was not really present, which may have distracted me from the true meaning of the documentary. I can see that it was very creative, though.
Third documentary on Queer Day 2018: Cassandro, the Exotico! by Marie Losier
Info by IDFA: Cassandro is often referred to as the Liberace of lucha libre (Spanish for “freestyle wrestling”). This tough Mexican show wrestler wears glittering costumes and has more than earned his wrestling stripes in his gender-bending exótico persona. In this intimate 16mm portrait, we follow this likable entertainer and athlete in the twilight of his 26-year career. His body is, at last, succumbing to the years of broken bones, concussions, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The characteristic color palette of this analog film perfectly complements Cassandro’s life: his spectacular costumes, his home filled with trinkets and the poor neighborhood where he grew up. On just a few occasions the protagonist himself appears in a Skype conversation. These are often his darkest moments, and it’s in these scenes that director Marie Losier becomes most deeply involved. Cassandro needs to reconcile himself with the prospect of his impending retirement. But without the spotlight, who is he?
Because we closely follow one person, I was drawn in much more than in the previous documentaries. When Cassandro is happy or cracking jokes, you laugh with him. When he tells you about his dark past, upcoming retirement or relapse, you feel for him. And when he is adjusting his hair for the umpteenth time, you chuckle at his vanity. You admire his perseverance when you see his scars, x-rays, and casts. Finally, when you see him jump from the ceiling during wrestling matches, you understand his talent.
Fourth documentary on Queer Day: Bixa Travesty by Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman
Info by IDFA: Raw, vital and sometimes very intimate portrait of the Brazilian artiste Linn da Quebrada, a “tranny fag” who uses her own body as her medium of political expression. Her performances are confrontational, subversive and colorful—and they offer no room at all for a heteronormative perspective. She deconstructs the self-image of the alpha man and examines what a tranny fag really is.
Public and private life are completely intertwined in this journey of discovery, with discussions about gender and how to define it—or undefine it—taking place in the shower, in the bedroom, and on the radio. We see Linn da Quebrada sharing tender moments with her family, during playful exchanges with friends and bursting with self-confidence onstage.
I am happy to have watched this. Quite a few people walked out, though. Were they offended by the many genitals shown? Were they bored by the huge amount of text spoken, sung or shouted? It shows that no matter what you think of this documentary, you will have an opinion. And is that not precisely the reason why art exists? To challenge you and the world around you?
For me, I have seen enough penises for a while but I enjoyed the moments when they sat down for the radio shows. There, they stripped away most of the show and came back to their message. That is when I really listened.
Queer Day 2018
Queer Day 2018 was the second time I visited IDFA’s Queer Day. Last year, I watched Chavela, Queerama, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, and Mr. Gay Syria. I have to say that Queer Day had a bigger impact on me last year. I feel the 2017 program was more diverse in terms of stories from the entire LGBTQIA community. And if I have to compare Chavela and Mr. Gay Syria, which I have seen winning quite a few awards over the year and shown at many different film festivals, with Cassandro, the Exotico! and Bixa Travesty, then I think the first two movies have a longer-lasting effect on its audiences. Bixa Travesty does have the potential to win some awards because it is so very outspoken. However, that may also be what works against it. Time will tell!