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.