“First Period” Film Review – JEC

Motion picture films are used for entertainment and most often as a vehicle to convey messages or express a particular belief about society. An emerging genre in popular culture is queer film. As a feature in Kingston’s Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival, First Period, directed by Charlie Vaughn approaches the classic plot line of two girls trying to climb the social strata latter of high school to become friends with the socially superior group and win a talent show competition. While First Period attempts to make comic relief of its plot, the film exploits the idea of feminism, equality in sexual orientation and race, through the characters and their relationships with one another.

Feminism is completely overlooked in the film. Cassie and Maggie, the protagonists played by men, are suggested to identify as heterosexual females. Two of the antagonistic “mean girls” identify as heterosexual females. Contrastingly from Cassie and Maggie, the antagonistic girls, “The Heathers” are both tall, thin, and scandalously-dressed. The proportions of their bodies are exposed and they wear make up. The Heathers have the “ideal” and “most attractive” boyfriends and are at the top of the social strata. This distinction implies that a woman must look perfect and have the ideal life to be considered the “coolest”, apart from her personality, values, or beliefs. At one point in the film during the “Female Anatomy Class”, the strict, unwelcoming, and careless male teacher is seen inappropriately touching one of the Heathers. The film does not address consent but Heather seems to be okay with what is happening. This relationship suggests that in order to be noticed by a man, a woman must show off her body, be passive to inappropriate behaviour, sexually receptive, and subordinate to men, displaying emphasized femininities. Later on in this relationship, the male teacher writes on a piece of paper “WE’RE OVER” and throws it at the Heather. This action is particularly repulsive because it shows the man of the relationship as the dominant centre, which is an example of androcentrism.

There is a contradicting inequality of sexual orientation within the film. Throughout the relationship between Heather and the male teacher, Cassie and Maggie were often shown sitting together innocently in the back. The male teacher would frequently threaten them and accuse them of “funny business” implying they would participate in sexual relations with one another. What is inappropriate about this is that the teacher assumed they were homosexual and accused that of being a bad thing that they would be punished for; meanwhile there was nothing considered socially unacceptable about his relationship with Heather. Whether or not it was a form of suggested homophobia, the teacher did not treat Cassie and Maggie like any of the other students in the class and even thought of Maggie as a “coat rack”. His assumptions about their sexual orientation made them inferior and subject to punishment. What is contradictory about this inequality is that by the end of the film, gay relationships are made public and socially acceptable, as well as the fact that First Period is a queer film directed by a gay individual. Perhaps the inequality is supposed to be understood lightly as a joke but the line between humour and intention was definitely unclear and crossed.

The film shows a lack of race equality and diversity in its selection of characters. At one point, Maggie participates in a “rap battle” with the only African American character in the film. The film racialized the African American character by using him to portray a rapper and derogatorily he is told that he is going to be “raped” several times over. The fact that the character is threatened by a Caucasian individual is an example of white supremacy as he is the minority of the group and treated unequally. Apart from the African American individual there is not one character who is not Caucasian. The film inaccurately depicts modern day high school because of this considering North America is a very diverse continent, and yet not one person of any other ethnicity is included. The film does not accommodate to race differences and instead gives into the marginalization of race ethnicity by Caucasian hegemony.

I felt extremely uncomfortable while watching First Period. It made me feel as though my rights as a a woman who strongly believes in equality for gender, sexual orientation, and race, were being ignored and violated. To shed light on what was plausible in the film, the plot line was a creative idea and there were some comical features such as the scene with Cassie and the Guidance Counsellor, and Cassie’s confident and ambitious personality.

Technically speaking, the film followed a steady pace. Transitions from different scenes were notable because an animated, sparkly, pink motif flashed across the screen. The film did not use scores or a soundtrack, nor did it incorporate any special effects or stunt scenes. The scenes were shot from many different angles. None of these traits effected the content or message of the film directly. The plot line was relatable to viewers as the goal of trying to fit in and be “cool” in high school is something many teenagers alike face personally.

I attended First Period on a Friday night with three of my friends. I had never been to the Screening Room before and as a private theatre, it was very different from the typical Cineplex. I left the film feeling a little more cultured in terms of my adventures in Kingston and in my field of gender studies. Although I am not certain about my preference towards the film, that does not mean that someone else would not enjoy it. I recommend this film to anyone whether they’re in a gender studies course or not because, along with my feminist beliefs, I believe that every experience shapes who we are as individuals and and helps us learn a little bit more about ourselves. I do not regret attending First Period and applaud everyone who contributed to the production of this film for endeavouring in such a large project.

– JEC

“First Period” Film Review – NH

In the Reelout Arts Film First Period Brandon Alexander III plays new girl Cassie, who joins a new High School with the goal of becoming popular. After befriending Maggie, an unpopular wall-flower played by actor Dudley Beene, the two become allies to on their journey of becoming the most popular girls in school just in time for Cassie’s sweet 16th birthday party.

This film was ultimately a parody of multiple 80’s movies, drawing upon characteristics of film that were prevalent in older movies, but are rarely shown in modern day cinema because of their offensive nature. The director Carlie Vaughn wrote this film to have a generic plotline to be followed requiring little effort from the viewer, making this film a light comedy.

Prior to the viewing of First Period at the Screening room, we were shown two short clips, “V” and “They”. “V” was created for a yearly film contest the festival holds, where the challenge was to portray the term “virginity” through an object. The gay creator expressed his sexual frustration by damaging a series of objects starting with the letter V, showing his frustration towards his seemingly enduring virginity. “They” was a Claymation short piece about the creator’s experience of meeting a girl in college who did not identify in the gender binary. She used the pronoun “they” when talking about a person. Meeting this new girl was inspirational for her, and she felt the restrictions of societies labels lifted off of her, giving her freedom. Both short films gave a message of freedom and the theme of embracing your feelings and identity. First Period stars two male characters acting in female roles. Throughout the movie, the male’s characters are seen as unattractive and inferior to the other strictly male or female characters. Having males act as females plays with the idea of having two-spirted characters, manifesting both female and male dispositions.

The female characters in this movie follow a typical sexual script, showing characteristics of a stereotypical female by emphasizing the importance of aesthetics, acting in ways to attract boys, and putting little interest into their classes. Cassie dresses and acts with emphasized femininity in attempt to fit in with the popular girls by wearing bright makeup, and wearing revealing, feminine clothing. The first scene of the movie is a shot of Cassie’s bedroom, serving as the initial characterization of her character. The colour scheme of her room is pink and animal print, and it gives her a girlish persona, an example of how this film draws heavily upon types of social construction. Another example of social construction is brought forth with the sole African American character in the film. He was first presented in a rap battle, stereotypical to Northern American gang culture and was then given no further depth of character- an example of racialization.

The intersectionality of the most dominant members in the movie included being Caucasian, who are assumingly wealthy from what is shown in of their homes. Having Maggie and Cassie striving to be accepted by the school’s popular girls establishes a hierarchy giving power to the Caucasian wealthy characters. Another characteristic included in the intersectionality of the dominant characters was their heterosexuality. For the majority of the movie, the popular characters were all in heterosexual relationships. Near the beginning of the film, Cassie revels her steps for becoming the most popular girls in school, and one of the 3 steps was to date good looking boys, suggesting that being in a heterosexual relationship gives you a higher status. Nearing the end of the movie when the two male dominant characters come out, they lose their title of being “popular”, but instead become accepted into a new friend group. This friend group does not hold the same dominating power the popular group had at the beginning of the movie, giving the impression that their qualities make them lesser than previously.

The final scene in First Period strayed from the theme of pointing out the satire of well-known 80’s films. After following a very stereotypical “chick flick” story line, the ending veers off the predictable plot line. In most movies, the “happy ending” consists of the protagonist accomplishing their goal, defeating the antagonist and in most cases, ending up with their love interest. In the case of First Period, Cassie and Maggie didn’t exactly become the most popular girls in school, but they accomplished created a sense of acceptance at the talent show, overthrowing their school’s oppressor, Heather (Lauren Rose Lewis). Ending up on stage in only their underwear, members in the audience join them, and a celebration symbolic of showing your inner self takes place. Just as Maggie prepares herself to win over her love interest, to follow the storyline of other stories with the same “success of the underdog” themes, he chooses his male best friend over her, surprising the audience with the twist of events. Cassie not ending up with her love-interest portrays a more important message of accepting yourself and not caring what the world thinks.

Attending this movie was a unique experience for me. I feel that this movie was a distinctive addition to the Kingston Queer Film Festival, and was trying to achieve a dissimilar effect than the other pieces shown. While watching the trailers of the other films in the festival, most seemed more serious in nature, trying to shed light on serious issues in the LGBT community, or bring different perspectives than we normally see in Hollywood films. First period had the intention of being humorous while touching on sensitive topics instead of trying to achieve an emotional response from the viewers.

– NH

“Boy Meets Girl” Film Review ~ MMG

Last Wednesday I attended Kingston’s Reelout Film Festival to see a movie titled Boy Meets Girl, written and directed by Eric Schaeffer. This film is about the story of two life-long best friends, Robby, and Ricky, a transgender When Ricky meets the young and beautiful Francesca, fiancée to a boy from Ricky’s past, the two have an immediate connection. The film follows the whirlwind of emotions exposed as Ricky and Francesca start to become something more. Robby is forced to face his feelings for Ricky as he starts to realize she may be in danger of losing faith in herself.

I chose to see this film because the society in which Robby and Ricky lived in was seemingly very similar to mine. There were all different spectrums of understanding and acceptance and the director perfectly captured the reactions from each. There is commonly a whole range of those who reject, those who accept, and those who cannot understand. I felt that as a cisgender female, I know very little about transgender culture and I think it is important to educate myself. It is not enough to be accepting, and I wanted to get a better understanding of this kind of situation. The definition of transgender is a person whose choice of gender identity and sexuality does not correspond to the norms or to that of their biological gender. In many societies, the difficulty that people have understanding or accepting this gender identification is a result of the social construction of gender norms that they are taught to agree with. They are accustomed to believing that there are certain ways for certain biological genders to behave and anything beyond these guidelines are to be considered unnatural. Although societies are evolving and becoming more accepting, there is a difference, as I said before, between being accepting and being educated.

The scene that most definitely caused the most responsive reaction is one that occurred very close to the end of the film. Robby finds Ricky swimming naked in the lake and finally professes how he feels and has always felt about her. At his confession, Ricky walks out of the water, and reveals her transgendered body. By the choice of the director, Ricky’s full frontal body is shown and this disclosure caused a symphony of gasps within the audience. I myself, was quite surprised at the director’s choice to do this, and I do not think anyone was expecting the nudity. However, I think it was really important not to have the audience rely on their assumptions or their imagination for this scene. At one point in the movie, Ricky mentions her dreams of medicalization, but comments at the reality of how expensive that dream really is. From this we know that Ricky desires to be fully transformed into the opposite sex as she was biologically born, but it does not stop her from having confidence in herself. Although this scene may come across as being rather explicit, it is important not only in shaping the character of Ricky within the film as a bold and fearless adolescent, but also for the audience to become privy to the simple difference between her sexual gender and the one she identifies with. They are able to see how Ricky’s given sex is completely and solely biological and physical, and have nothing to do with who she is emotionally and mentally.

This however, was not the scene that held the most importance to me. The scene that I felt was the most significant was that when which Francesca and Ricky start to engage in sexual intercourse. The girls have gotten closer and closer as the film progressed, and led up to the point where they were both ready and longing to explore their desires and feelings for one another. A very common belief and stereotype towards transgender people is the idea that they want to change or go against their biologically given gender because they are attracted to the similar sex and long to be with them in the way that society has deemed natural. To be quite honest, for a long time I believed that this was the case also. This scene within the film helps to educate people like myself to realizing that the position of being transgender does not necessarily mean that that person wishes to be with the same sex gender as they were biologically born. The sexual orientation of a person has nothing to do with whether they wish to be transgender or not, and this scene helps to prove the disparity.

Overall Boy Meets Girl had a beautiful message and a wonderful love story, and I very much enjoyed attending the Reelout Film Festival. It really opened my eyes to the realities of a transgender individual, how they are affected, as well as the people they love, and the people who love them. It is not only an educational film, but also positive and inspiring. I would recommend Boy Meets Girl to anyone. ~ MMG

“Before the Last Curtain Falls” Film Review – EMW

Last weekend I saw the documentary “Before the Last Curtain Falls” at the Screening Room as a part of the Reelout Film Festival. The film, directed by Thomas Wallner, is based on the lives of a group of transexuals and drag queens who went on a final world tour for their show “Gardenia” before retiring. I chose to see this film because as a straight, cisgender woman I feel as though I have much to learn about transgender life. This is what one who does not feel aligned with the gender given to them at birth experiences day to day as a result of our social construction which is geared to give power to white, heterosexual, cisgender, middle-class men. In this regard I felt as though watching a film that allows a group of such people to talk about their lives and their hardships would be a great learning experience.

The film starts off with the performers putting on their makeup with a narrator explaining their world tour with “Gardenia”. Then we see a short excerpt of the performance before moving into an interview with cast member Danilo. The rest of the film follows a similar pattern of snippets of performance followed by interviews with each member and so on. I feel as though this is a good setup as it keeps the viewer informed on the lives of the performers while keeping in mind that the show is the overarching theme and what brought them all together in the first place.

One scene that stuck out to me is when one of the performers, Vanessa, was being interviewed by Wallner. Vanessa was showing the interviewer pictures of herself in her youth before transitioning when he asked her what name she was given at birth. I was not expecting her emotional reaction to what I thought was a simple question which is why it really stuck with me. Vanessa passionately explained why it is not appropriate to ask a transgender person invasive questions about their past because they have no relevance to their current lives and who they are in the present. Some transgender people will be okay with having these conversations but it is ignorant to just assume that they are obligated to share these personal things. This part of the film reminded me of an interview with writer and trans activist Janet Mock in which she turned the conversation around and asked the female, cisgender interviewer invasive questions about growing up and discovering herself. Only when these questions are put in a different context in terms of gender are they seen as invasive and inappropriate which is why this segment of the film is extremely vital to the overall message.

The film did a really good job of being concerned with the lives of the performers and letting them share their own stories rather than just superficially painting them as drag queens who only perform for entertainment’s sake. Each performer was given a large portion of the film to share their story and explain what Gardenia has meant to them, as well as their personal relationships and struggles. In this way the film presents the cast members as people, rather than dehumanizing them as the media does. The film also does a good job of rejecting essentialism through its sexually diverse cast. Each cast member is different whether they be a transgender woman, or a homosexual man in drag. Some have taken hormones and/or had surgery, while some have not and still considered themselves to be transgender. Some also present themselves as completely male in their personal life, while some do not. None of these unique factors disallow any the performers to be a part of Gardenia which broadens the spectrum for transgender viewers, making it known that there are no specific physical rules attached to being transgender. For example, often in society transgender people are only considered to be so if they “pass” physically, and this documentary rejects this notion. In the process of doing this the film also rejects compulsory binary thinking through the diverse cast.

While the film does a good job of analyzing the lives and struggles of white transgender and homosexual life, one problem the film presents is the lack of racial diversity in the cast. Because all of the performers are white, the film has no opportunity to shed light onto the intersectional struggles of transgender and homosexual people, which is critical. For example, if one the the cast members was a homosexual or transgender person of colour they would be able to share their experiences of multiple oppressions and how they tie into each other, because all forms of oppression and privilege intersect in some way. This feeds the viewer one or two perspectives while not considering that there are many issues left undiscussed as people of colour are never explored, limiting the scope of experiences that are shared. This being said, the film does emphasize the social and economic class of the performers which is important because it ties in with their oppressions in an intersectional way. Vanessa states that she had to work as a prostitute for thirteen years to pay of the price of her sex change operation. This shows how our society places transgender people in a position to be affected by things such as homelessness, prostitution, and so on.

In conclusion, despite some flaws, I feel as though “Before the Last Curtain Falls” is a worthwhile documentary to see, regardless of background or education in gender studies. – EMW

Review of “Before the Last Curtain Falls”

The short film “Before the Last Curtain Falls” is based out of Europe, and follows a group of transgendered, homosexual and transsexual people in the autumns of their lives, as they tour the world with their drama, “Gardenia”. The cast members have been touring for the past two years, and are returning home to perform their show for the last time. “Gardenia” is performed without speech and depicts the transformation of each character, ultimately ending in an unveiling of their true colours and personalities. “Before the Last Curtain Falls” is a documentary that introduces viewers to each member of the show “Gardenia”. Each participant exposes elements such as their sexual preferences, lifestyle choices, stories of finding their true selves, and most importantly what “Gardenia” means to each of them. The main themes in “Before the Last Curtain Falls” are love and courage, as each person is baring themselves raw to tell a story, express themselves and try something new. Some of the people in the documentary are looking for love, some have found it and some have no interest, but the connection that they form through performing together fulfills them all.

While some of the people in the documentary had no problem coming out, others truly struggled. For example, Vanessa chose to have surgery when she was in her twenties and fully transitioned. However, life was not as simple as she had hoped it would be after surgery, as she was shunned from society and the life that she was accustomed to. Vanessa performed regularly throughout her life and prostituted for thirteen years, before finally retiring and turning to “Gardenia” later in life. Vanessa has been living as a woman for longer than any other participant and speaks openly about her sex life and her struggles, which include a complete denial of her life before she transitioned.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rudy is a homosexual man who has never come out to his family or society. For him, taking part in “Gardenia” is a great risk as well as an escape. He describes how his father was a prisoner of war and has photographs of the brutalities that homosexuals faced. He lives in fear every day. Rudy discusses the relationships that he has had with other men, and ultimately why he has chosen to stay single, as he claims they always end in drama. One thing that is important to observe is that one cannot assume that all of the people in “Before the Last Curtain Falls” live the same way or want the same things just because they all participate in “Gardenia”. People who perform drag are often stereotyped as being transgendered, when in reality not all of them are.

One scene that stood out to me was when the director asked Vanessa to speak about her life before she transitioned. She clearly felt uncomfortable, but pulled out a photo of herself as a twelve-year-old boy for the sake of the film. Vanessa described the sadness that she felt when looking at the photograph, as she remembers how unnatural and unhappy she felt at that time in her life. She speaks about the confusion she felt and the sense that she did not belong. Finally, the director asked Vanessa to share what her name was before she transitioned, and she became angry and defensive, claiming that her previous life was not her own and was of no importance. Vanessa finally shared that her name was previously Jean-Pierre, before tearing up and asking for a different question. This scene made it clear to me that she has truly struggled with her identity in the past, and the need that she feels to be respected as her true self.

Overall, I enjoyed “Before the Last Curtain Falls” and it opened my eyes to topics that I had never really thought of before. The showing was at 2:00pm on Saturday, so I walked to the theatre with two friends of mine, and afterwards we all agreed that we felt that the film had enlightened us. I liked the connection that I felt to each participant, as well as the clips that were shown from “Gardenia”. I also really enjoyed the photographs that were shown of each person in their younger years, and the stories of their various experiences. If I could add one thing to the documentary, I would have loved to see footage from the traveling that the group did for “Gardenia”. It would be amazing to see the changes in each person from the first show to the last. In conclusion, I would recommend “Before the Last Curtain Falls” and I think it was a great addition to Reelout.