since the documentary Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema explored the emergence of boy meets boy and girl meets girl cinema from the beginning of the gay rights movement in the 1960s to the "New Queer Cinema" of the 90s, and the explosion of gay images in the mainstream media. OutUK's Ron Dicker has been talking to the co-producer of Fabulous! Lesli Klainberg about her groundbreaking documentary.
At the time of making the film Lesli Klainberg was a 42-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., mother of two with a partner of 14 years. She says in an exclusive conversation at a New York coffee house that the time was right to encapsulate gay film. Its development, the filmmaker says, "mirrors the gay social movement of the last 30, 40 years." Enough history has now unfolded to tell a history. Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven.

"It's hard to look at another kind of film movement in the same way that somehow incorporates all of that social change political change and personal change that filmmakers go through and society goes through. In a simplistic way, you could say that filmmakers come out of the closet and so do their films in the post-Jarman period."

The exhaustive combing through archives not only provided Klainberg and Ades with ammunition to the tell the story they knew, but to learn something as well. The two discovered a wave of "dykesploitation" movies that rolled through the American underground in the '50s and '60s. Mostly for straight males, the lurid black-and-white reels of women loving women provide new context for a nascent movement that would later embrace these relics as its own.

In the same vein, Fireworks, Kenneth Anger's 1947 fantasy of his being raped by musclebound sailors, gets an even more exalted place. Fireworks is really primal gay, lesbian filmmaking when you think of where the world was at the time," Klainberg says.

Fabulous! tries to avoid scholarly discourse, urging interviewees such as John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) to discuss their favourite works. The answers sail past done-dry sociology to get at the flesh and blood of the matter.

"Every minority wants to see themselves reflected on the screen because these films end up meaning a lot more to us because we don't often get reflected," she says.

Klainberg admits an affinity for fellow documentary makers but recognizes the global impact of prominent feature directors.

John Waters.
Waters gets his props for being the first out director to be recognized and adored by gay and straight audiences; Haynes for seamless weaving of gay and straight characters, and Roos for crossing back and forth between mainstream screenwriting like Bounce and Single White Female to complex indie filmmaking. His other notable work was the ensemble Happy Endings. Beyond the big-time movers and shakers, Fabulous! probes the push-me, pull-you collective psyche behind outsiders who want in... and not.

I think gay and lesbian filmmakers are still just trying to be film-makers," Klainberg says. "They're trying to get their movies into Sundance and they want their films seen at Outfest. But they don't want it just at Outfest."

As for more recent chapters in queer cinema, Klainberg points to Todd Stephens' festival darling Another Gay Movie as a possibility. The American Pie-style farce has gay characters determined to lose their virginity. "Todd is pushing the envelope for everybody," she says.

And perhaps Stephens can thank Waters -- who first got noticed when his transvestite muse Divine consumed dog poop in Pink Flamingos -- most of all for feeling at liberty to be goofy and, well, out there. "The freedom Waters feels making his films is contagious," Klainberg says. Not everyone is down with that historical take, though. Documentary and feature director Randy Barbato (Party Monster), who makes a few eyebrow-raising comments in "Fabulous!" asks the camera, "What's so gay about John Waters? What's so gay about a drag queen eating shit?"

You can watch Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema online for free from You Tube. Alternatively, the film is also available on DVD from Amazon.



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