Straight Brooklynite Kerthy Fix makes documentaries about queer icons like JD Samson and her band Le Tigre, Stephin Merritt and his band The Magnetic Fields and 1950s transsexual Christine Jorgensen. But despite her engaging work exploring these “cultural rebels”, Fix has had to create each film as “a labor of love” with little financial support or gain. Why? According to Fix few financiers wanna take a chance on queer cinema in fear of politics or low returns. Her solution? Encourage queers and allies to build our own institutions and creative communities that combat the old boys’ mentality keeping queers off the silver screen.
Whether you’ve heard of Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields or not, Strange Powers (which Fix co-directed with Gail O’Hara) provides an intimate look at the band by incorporating over ten years of footage from rehearsals, performances, and interviews. The film doesn’t concentrate much on Merritt’s sex life, but it does look closely at his “queer” music making — he switches male and female singing parts in his masterpiece 69 Love Songs, incorporates strange instruments like toy horns into his compositions, and writes songs while drinking alone in New York’s gay bars. The film especially focuses on his intense creative relationship with fellow band member Claudia Gonson and how the two alternately bicker like an old couple, create startlingly beautiful music together, and then must separate when Stephen decides to move to California. It ends up documenting how the creative process effects Stephen and Claudia’s intense platonic relationships as much as the band’s surprising impact on musical culture over a decade and a half.
ABOVE: Queerty contributor Daniel Villarreal discusses heterosexism, transsexual icons, and the future of queer cinema with Fix during a recent run in.
huh… I wouldn’t have called JD Le Tigre’s frontwoman, she didn’t really join until the second album.
She was pretty badass fronting Men though 😀
*gets squealy* I totally got a hug from her at the last Pittsburgh show.
Maybe she doesn’t deserve the money. She made a film about Le Tigre which never addresses the issues surrounding them playing at MichFest (where trans women were excluded and later, discouraged from attending) and many of the transphobic statements made by Kathleen Hanna, the group’s founder. Moreover, it never goes into the issues surrounding cissexual women who embrace transmasculine people and trans men and use that as a sign they’re “trans allies” all the while they’re supporting marginalization of trans women in queer and women’s spaces. How you can possible make a film about that band while excluding those issues doesn’t make me feel as if I’d want to give the director any money either.
Yes, I agree with her about how sexist the film industry is and I haven’t seen the Jorgensen documentary yet, but after her Le Tigre film, I have trepidation about it.
“build our own institutions and creative communities..”
didn’t we try that with HERE! and Regent Media? Look at the schlocky garbage they produce
HERE! would be better if it actually had a decent creative person in charge.
Good to hear Kerty. Gina, what were the “transphobic statements” that Kathleen Hanna made? I’m interested because I’m working on a project about her.
GINA… hi, why doesn’t she deserve money? what remarks has activist and artist Kathleen Hanna made that are “transphobic”? Also, I guess my question is this. Kerthy Fix and Le Tigre don’t deserve to have their work documented with any kind of money ( which they haven’t by the way) because Kathleen Hanna is transphobic? The art she has put out into the world is not valid in some way or worthy because…. why? Really, I would love to know why. Thanks.
for the record, I don’t recall anything Kathleen’s said that was directly transphobic, but still, playing the Michigan Womyn’s festival was pretty damning…
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