Canal Street Online Manchester

Dressed as a girl - The film

I Love The Nightlife

When you are invited to film screenings, it can be with dread as the standard is varying to say the least, however I went to the I Love The Nightlife, Queer Story Showcase at the Digital Performance Lab in Salford and was hugely rewarded. The standard of the films on show was exceptionally high.

The brainchild of Queer Media Festival organiser, Jamie Starboisky, the evening showcased eight short films then broke for networking before showing the wonderful Dressed As A Girl feature.

The eight shorts were a mix of international and home grown talent kicking off with gentle drama, Alaska is a Drag, a gay love story in the unlikely setting of an Alaskan cannery, the hilarious Cruising Electric also deserves a mention, look it up on Youtube, as well as the delightfully bonkers MeTube, a trip into the imagination of a repressed soul.

Documentaries were well served as well with Black Lesbian Handbook delving into lesbian culture and En Vogue proving that 25 years after Madonna brought it to the masses, vogueing is still alive and well.

But it was the Manchester double bill that was truly inspiring. The first piece was Painted by Salford University graduate, Elena Browne. I caught up with Elena before the showing to talk about her delve into Manchester’s drag world.

“Painted is a dragumentary which came from always going down Canal Street” she explains “My friends had an obsession with RuPaul and we binged watched Drag Race so it was natural for it to be my dissertation. The film looks at different types of drag, traditional (Misty Chance), new wave (Cheddar Gorgeous and Anna Phylactic) who have honed their art, and alternative (Danny Beard) who has created a whole online persona.”

The film is beautifully edited and really delves into the personalities of these stalwarts of Manchester’s gay scene. “It took about four weeks of filming and a lot of late nights” she laughs “We had an interesting night at Cruz 101, the Gag Ball which was a leather and fetish night”.

Browne now has an internship at Blakeway North but is definitely a name to look out for in the future.

The second Manchester piece was Mirrors by Neil Ely. This is a subtle piece set in a nightclub toilet focussing on two straight lads who find themselves, for whatever reason, in a gay club. Featuring Shameless star Jody Latham and Skins star Liam Boyle, the tempo and style of this simple film is fantastic.

Ely explained in the subsequent question and answer session “I’d written two scripts before but wanted to take it back to when I was coming out, maybe there is a grey area to sexuality”.

Following the break, it was the turn of London producer, Chris Amos to present Dressed As A Girl, a fascinating and fabulous look at alternative drag artists in London who pioneered the infamous Gay Bingo nights. 

Set over a period of ten years, the film by Colin Rothbart delves deeply into the psyche of this group of friends who made an indelible mark on the London scene. We join them at their hedonistic height and follow their stories as they all go their separate ways.

The film is searingly honest in examining what drives our heroes dealing with issues such as living with HIV, substance abuse, damaged upbringings and mental illness, making the viewer fall in love with each person in their own way culminating in a wonderful finale as they regroup for one last bingo night.

I would recommend seeing this film and many of the others, the first opportunity you get and I would definitely keep an eye out for more Queer Media events, watching great quality films in friendly surroundings, what more could you need?

Dressed As A Girl and Mirrors will be shown at a special screening at Vue cinema, Lowry Centre on 4th October as part of the Poutfest Tour, for tickets, click the link below.

By Chris Park for Canal-St Online

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