On November 14, the 25th annual New York Queer Experimental Film Festival hosted the premiere of Exploding Lineage! Queer of color histories in experimental film, a video showcase featuring experimental films by seventeen queer filmmakers of color.* The event was curated for Mix NYC Festival by Queer Rebel Productions, an organization founded in 2008 by KB Boyce and Celeste Chan to “showcase queer artists of color.” The crowd cycled through Mix Factory, a Brooklyn warehouse space decorated by live performances and video installations.
The hour-long screening was packed with fourteen films ranging from Jai Arun Ravine and Jorrit Poelen’s “cultural reclamation via karaoke” Fan Christy [Cover] [Karaoke MV] to Lambda Literary Fellow and VONA poet Indira Allegra’s film Weep Willow: The Blues for Lady Day. Weep Willow is a short blues poem dedicated to the legacy of Billie Holiday written as an assignment for Allegra’s class with author Ishmael Reed. The work was designed to take fans of the late musician “back to reality” regarding Holiday’s “original biography” including her complex history of poverty, sex work, and queerness. Weep Willow: The Blues for Day is a silent film created in collaboration between Allegra and cellist Chris Evans. To Allegra, the cello was the ideal instrument to accompany the piece because of its “vocal” nature, which added to the haunting intensity to the film.
Gary Fembot Gregerson, Brontez Purnell and Jerry Lee Abram’s energetic Free Jazz is “electric-60’s experimental choreography” performed by Brontez Purnell Dance Company. The grainy picture quality, the fact that the film is in black and white, and the diverse bodies and movements of the dancers make the film cathartically rhythmic.
Hokum, a seven-minute short created by Dr. K. Ryan Ziegler asks the question “what does it mean to take pleasure when viewing the queer Black female body?” The term “hokum” refers to folk humor used to make sexual innuendo. Hokum is laid out as a “visual narrative” that transposes images of nude queer bodies adorned with dildos in harnesses over the controversial work of Robert Mapplethorpe.
The theme of the sexual black body as a complicated product continued in I Know My Soul and In My Own Hands by Crystal Mason. Mason’s films showcase the physical manifestation of self-love in the forms of exhibition and masturbation. In My Own Hands proclaims that “every second of joy is a revolution” over semi-nude shots of the artist jerking off. I Know My Soul is a visual conversation about the labels imposed upon Mason’s body including “pervert”, “working-class”, “masochist” and “fag.”
Exploding Lineage! screened the work of artists representing the “African-Asian-Latin queer diasporas,” and showed their commitment to preserving the histories of queer people of color through storytelling and ancestor remembrance. Bulldagger Women and Sissy Men by Queer Rebel Productions founder KB Boyce celebrates “the snare, hi hat and syncopation of the queer Black Harlem Renaissance.” The film reads as a telling of the names of major players in queer black life and art during the 1920s and 1930s such as Josephine Baker and Richard Bruce Nugent. No Legacy Let Go, directed by Julia Wallace and produced by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, pays homage to “known, unknown, named and unnamed black LGBTI/Queer ancestors” with a strong focus on “the legacy of queer Harlem.” The film centers around the recollections of Wallace’s gay granddad, Harlem-born Imani Rashid. Rashid recounts her memories of a lesbian couple who were friends of her family and remained committed to each other for seventy years. The film is a slice of Gumbs’ and Wallace’s Mobile Homecoming Project, which works to preserve the stories of black LGBTQI elders.
KB Boyce states: “Queer/LGBT people of color are underrepresented in alternative art venues, despite our histories of innovation and experimentation.” Boyce reported that the works featured in Exploding Lineage! were selections from artists who inspire them or who they had worked with through the Queer Women of Color Film Festival and in Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance. Exploding Lineage! does the work of looking at queer histories of color in order to better understand our present and future, and “juxtapose
the legacies that we inherit alongside the spaces we carve out for ourselves today.”
Queer Rebel Productions is ready to host a screening in your community. You can reach them to plan an event at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*14 Filmmakers are QPOC and 3 are allies.
– Cyrée Jarelle Johnson
Cyrée Jarelle Johnson is a Black Femme dyke writer, scholar, zinester, and poet. Cyrée Jarelle is committed to relocating Femme culture from margin to center using writing, non-formal education and communal publication. Ze remains a crippled Jersey Grrl abroad; in hir swollen feet ze is a wanderer, but hir heart is in the foodcourt at the Woodbridge Mall.