We’re having an extraordinary time filming in easternmost Australia, exploring how Zenith Virago and the communities of Byron Shire, Australia do death differently. To follow our progress and see photos of the people and events we’re covering, visit our ZEN & THE ART OF DYING website.
On Saturday, November 17, the AJZ Space in Yerevan, Armenia hosted a screening party of THE SKIN I’M IN coordinated by The Screenery, PINK Armenia, Queering Yerevan, and talented filmmaker and scholar Anahid Yahijan (a former student of mine).
Approximately 25 attendees representing a range of hybrid nationalities, sexualities, and identities were in attendance and contributed to what sounds like a spirited and nuanced discussion of the film afterward. Anahid related many positive comments about the universality of various aspects of the story and an overall appreciation of its honesty. Two lines of critique and their ensuing debate at the event are especially interesting to me and worth sharing here.
Some of those in attendance questioned the cultural appropriation present in the film (my world travels, collaborating with a Kwakwaka’wakw artist to design a tattoo, and the return to indigenous notions of tattooing as ritual). In a globalizing world where Westerners like myself (coming from distinct legacies of privilege) are critical of the American status quo and seek out other historical and transcultural traditions as touchstones for a way of living, is this a sign of progress or simply of cultural hegemony and postmodern pastiche? My own answer would be that it all lies in intent, level of engagement, and the spirit of the interaction, and that we can get paralyzed in postcolonial theory and political correctness if we are not careful. This is an important conversation that I try to open up through the film and want to hear your thoughts on below.
A cohort of queer women at the screening were apparently put off by the multiple personas and frequent performative screen doublings I use to not only tell my own story but also to evoke past moments and encounters for which I have no footage. One woman referred to these strategies as grave betrayals of what many queer theorists have tried to fight: the notion that queerness is all about ego, a narcissistic mirroring of the self, and chalked the film up to an ultimate act of aesthetic narcissism that could have no larger social import due to its particularity to one individual’s story. Concerns about “unhealthy narcissism” area of course one that keeps any right-minded autobiographical filmmaker up some nights.
But it is worth unpacking the common levying of “narcissism” as a pejorative. In the psychoanalytic sense of the word, a healthy narcissism and mirroring of self in one’s parents is deemed vital for balanced social development. And yet mainstream culture has long denied queer identities such mirroring, as argued in the background clip on the Dr. Fox page of this site) My own hope is that in a digital age of self-disclosure on the streams of social media, that the film is in fact a return to the performative traditions of queer media (i.e. Marlon Riggs) and the autobiographical impulses of third-wave feminism (i.e. Vanalyne Green), where the crafting of such a piece returns a degree of self-reflection and retrospection into the act of digital autobiography, and that sites like this one and imfromdriftwood.com offer the opportunity for the sharing of personal stories to provide much-needed mirroring to underrepresented components of culture and opportunities for ongoing dialogue and debate.
Wherever people come in on my particular film, let’s at least be sure to exercise these digital potentials for dialogue! Check out the great photos of the event, host a screening party of your own, and join the conversation below.
The treatment for our next documentary project Zen & the Art of Dying has won a 2012 Chris Award from the 2012 Columbus International Film & Video Festival.
CIF+VF is the longest-running film festival in the United States, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
The festival describes its mission as “honoring and screening the work of makers whose creations of vision, beauty and power help us understand the complexities of our world by using their committed artistry to touch our minds and hearts.”
The CIF +FV treatment competition is open to both fiction and documentary project treatments and is intended to generate exposure and support for awarded projects.
THE SKIN I’M IN continues to tour the American Southwest. We’re thrilled to have been chosen as an official selection for the 13th Annual Santa Fe Film Festival, which will run December 6-9, 2012. The festival is “a four-day celebration of the best in independent world cinema” held in the vibrant artistic and intellectual community of Santa Fe. We’ll keep you posted on official screening dates and locations when announced. More information coming soon at: http://www.santafefilmfestival.com/
Thunderbird and orca totem by Rande Cook, image courtesy of the Museum Volkenkunde Leiden, the Netherlands
Rande Cook returned to the Netherlands to attend the official unveiling and exhibition opening of “The Story of the Totem Pole” an interactive exhibition at the Museum Volkenkunde Leiden. The central element of the exhibition, which exhibits first nations traditions of the American Pacific Northwest and Canada, is the massive 8-meter thunderbird and orca totem pole designed by Cook and completed by him, along with a core team of fellow Kwakwaka’wakw carvers and painters. This is the first and only totem pole in the Netherlands. The opening was commemorated by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet and included opportunities to share traditional costumes and dances with attendees. See more photographs of the events and exhibition here.
In the wake of an American presidential debate where canned sound bytes are scored and tallied daily, and a Big Bird quip is enough fodder to make Americans twitter, skit, and meme for a week, American citizens and politicians alike could take a lesson from Australians about the level of free, substantive discourse afforded by its Parliamentary system.
Opposition leader Tony Abbot tried to pin the fallout of a parliamentary sex scandal onto Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and she was having none of it. The specifics of the case resonate strongly with my thoughts on this Dina Brown page about misogyny (being endemic not only to culture at large, but within the gay community as well). Married Speaker of the House Peter Slipper (who has since resigned) allegedly sexually harassed a gay male staff member with text message exchanges (now a matter of public record) rife with denigrating references to women and their genitalia. Get more of the grizzly details from Jezebel.com’s Tracie Egan Morrissey.
All the details of the scandal aside, the real power and takeaway here come from Gillard’s masterful speech on misogyny and sexism delivered on the floor of Parliament. Watch the full speech below, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and share your thoughts in the comment feed.
THE SKIN I’M IN’s European premiere won’t be at one location, but twelve! The film has been selected to tour Europe as part of the 2012 European Film Festival
In its 7th year, EFF selects has selected 9 international feature films and 21 shorts to tour Europe between October and January. Regionally-produced independent projects are added to the program at each destination. Screening sites are often major universities, opening the program up to interesting collaborations with scholars, students, and community organizations.
We will post specific dates and venues as they are announced. Destination cities for this year include:
Goddess of FIre Tattoo, Courtesy of Zulu Tattoo 2008
THE SKIN I’M IN’s featured tattoo artist Zulu is one of the central artists included in L.A. Skin & Ink a new exhibition at the Los Angeles Craft & Folk Art Museum running through January 6, 2013. The exhibition traces a core group of artists and their exploration and reinterpretation of global tattooing traditions, along with an important thread of artisanal mentorship. Read the full press release here
By Adrian Gomez / Asst. Arts Editor, Reel NM on Fri, Sep 28, 2012
Director Broderick Fox works on the final sound mix for his documentary “The Skin I’m In.” The film will screen as part of the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
It took a personal low to make a change. And filmmaker Broderick Fox has captured it all on film. “It’s a story that I feel like I needed to tell,” he says during a recent interview. “It’s taken about seven years, but it’s finally all together.” Read Full Article