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We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women.

NZ Film Festival 2017
Expanding a ‘sexy book club’

We appreciate the original cartoons provided by Helen Courtney. This one, Flight of fancy, seems to fit particularly well with Media.

NZ Film Festival 2017

At time of writing, only the Auckland programme was fully available (tickets on sale)*, so that is where the links will go. This is generally the largest, so not all films noted here will necessarily be available in all regions. Check out your closest (of 13) locations, and don’t leave it too late to book.

*The Wellington programme is also launched, with print programmes in distribution and tickets on sale July 6.

On the other hand, don’t be too worried if you miss out here, many of the films premiere in the festival and return over the following months to more general screenings.

Go to first, then review the programme once you have chosen the region.

What might be of interest to lesbians in the 2017 programme? We are looking for films about, or by, lesbians; happy – or at least positive – endings are a bonus. Interesting films about women. Perhaps some about others in the rainbow community. Kudos for locally made films being identified as ‘Aotearoa’ this year.

There look to be lots of interesting films, but sadly, very little lesbian or rainbow features.

A Date for Mad Mary, Ireland, 2016, looks like it will have a story of ‘possibility’ – same-sex attraction develops in spite of heterosexual assumptions and behaviour. Reviews suggest it may be a bit clichéd, but that it does take coming out as straightforward, rather than an unusual storyline.

100 Men is an Aotearoa film which “reflects on 40 years of gay history via a countdown of Kiwi filmmaker Paul Oremland’s most memorable shags, featuring candid and moving interviews with past lovers”. While you might wonder how much this relates to women’s experiences over the last 40 years, there are certainly some comparisons to make: “in the days before gay marriage seemed even remotely possible, the rejection of monogamy was a defining feature of gay culture … he also shows that his encounters led to long-lasting friendships”.

Other positive women-focussed films, in alphabetical order, include

  • Ancien and the Magic Tablet, Japan, animated, “steampunk dreams intersect with corporate reality set just days before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics”.
  • I Am Not a Witch, Zambia, “Zambian-born writer and director Rungano Nyoni’s surreal tale, revolves around a nine-year-old village girl accused of witchcraft and hauled off to do witch’s work … though accusing someone of witchcraft is illegal in Zambia, Nyoni’s tale is based on continuing practices she observed herself, living for a month in a witch’s camp”.
  • It is the 1927 US film that ensured star Clara Bow would be called The ‘It’ Girl; it screens just once, with APO playing the original score live.
  • La Chana, Spain, gives us a flamenco dance legend, “an intimate portrait, a loving tribute to the legendary gypsy dancer, an admiring portrait of a strong-willed female performer rising above the restrictions of the patriarchal society into which she was born”.
  • Manifesto, Germany (in English), features Cate Blanchett as each of 13 characters giving voice to the published rallying calls of myriad artistic movements, “a dazzling feat of chameleon artistry”.
  • Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Indonesia, is a “thoroughly enjoyable and delightfully deadpan adventure which delivers a wily feminist spin on a western tale of murder and revenge”.
  • Maudie, Canada, a biopic of Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis, “irrepressible despite arthritis and a churlish husband”.
  • The Midwife, France, stars two distinguished stars of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot, in a “touching tale of the unlikely connection of opposites, a conscientious midwife reluctantly reconnecting with the flamboyant step-mother who absconded 30 years earlier”.
  • My Year with Helen, Aotearoa, will surely be widely screened following the festival: Director/producer Gaylene Preston provides a “fascinating portrait of Helen Clark on a mission, campaigning for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations”. Gaylene Preston will be in attendance for a Q+A following both Auckland screenings.
  • Sami Blood, Sweden, “In 1930s Sweden, 14-year-old Sami girl Elle Marja is forcibly removed from her family and sent to a state-run boarding school where she is expected to learn how to behave in ‘acceptable’ society; she becomes determined to find a new life for herself by abandoning her indigenous heritage and attempting to pass as Swedish ”.
  • Starless Dreams, Iran, is a documentary about young women who are “locked up in a Tehran detention facility for murder, theft or simply running away from home – and whose lives were often worse outside”.
  • Waru, Aotearoa, “Eight Māori female directors – Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Ainsley Gardiner, Katie Wolfe, Chelsea Cohen, Renae Maihi, Paula Jones, Awanui Simich-Pene – have each contributed a sequence to this powerful and challenging feature which unfolds around the tangi of a small boy who died at the hands of his caregiver”. The directors will be at a Q+A following both Auckland screenings.


Expanding a ‘sexy book club’

Hugo Grrrl, the drag king MC of Naked Girls Reading (NGR), is keen to spread the show from its current regular Wellington and Christchurch performances, and “create chapters all over New Zealand”.

Naked girls reading HugoNGR started in Chicago eight years ago and has spread to the USA, the UK and Australia. Wellington-based Hugo Grrrl (left, AKA Genevieve Fowler) heard about it from a mate. “It’s absurd, funny, ground-breaking – the collision of cabaret, literature and comedy. I thought it was genius.”

So she set up a New Zealand franchise, starting with two-monthly shows at the Fringe Bar in Wellington and the Exchange in Christchurch.

The two-hour shows each feature three women, naked but for shoes, who read and discuss texts they love on the theme of the evening. Themes have included Pride, religion, feminist propaganda, Kiwiana, fantasy, crime and punishment, science fiction and smut.

“I haven’t seen a Pride edition overseas – most of our themes haven’t been done elsewhere,” says Hugo. “The topics have so much content, we could do each theme four times over.”

It’s important that the women choose writing they’re passionate about, says Hugo. “I ensure there’s lots of variety and no triggering material. They bring the most amazing stuff – they always have twice as much to read as they need, but the reading is only part of the show. They’ll do a poem, then we’ll have a conversation in the group about it – it’s often hilarious.”

Naked girls reading PrideHugo doesn’t run auditions for the show; “people just get in contact. There’s overwhelming interest – I can cast only half of those who are interested. Personality is how I cast, interesting women who make me laugh. It’s not how they look, or whether they have experience taking their clothes off in public.”

“We joke that NGR is a lesbian dating service – we get great queer repeat audiences. We get a smattering of single men who turn up alone and sneak out at half time. We call that ‘booby trapped’ – they would have come for the boobs and they have to listen to the readings. We get a lot of women coming to see bodies that look like theirs, to celebrate the female form in all its honesty.”

A Drag King MC is unique to the New Zealand chapter; Hugo describes himself as a “friendly neighbourhood transvestite, a hairy little teenage boy.”

“I think a drag king MC strikes a really good balance; it allows the women to occupy the female energy solely, and it’s not a fully-clothed cis gender man,” says Hugo. “The show calls attention to the oversexualisation of the female body; we talk about gender norms and binaries.”

NGR chch Aug“Uusally we see naked women in a patriarchal context. But NGR is about humanising the female body – women in their natural state being smart, vivacious and funny.”

Shows have included cabaret artists, “but we only have one burlesque performer on stage at any one performance”. Hugo says performers have included pregnant women, mothers, comedians, women with “an amazing array of stories and life experiences”.

One reviewer wrote that it was hard to describe the sense of “intimacy and almost sacredness” from “raw, intense pieces of writing … being read by someone with no clothes on”. Another described NGR as “sexy book club, a sapphic slumber party”.

Hugo wants to make NGR better and “more inspiring – it makes people really happy. It gives women confidence and comfort seeing their bodies and stories on stage.” Hugo has his eyes on Palmerston North, Auckland and Dunedin, so see the Naked Girls Reading Facebook page or Dyke Diary for details.   Jenny R

Blogs and pages you’ll like

Who are you reading?  Here’s our blog roll; send us links for other lesbian blogs.

Blogs and sites from Aotearoa

The Charlotte Museum “The Charlotte Museum Trust is part of a network of archives preserving lesbian culture for the benefit and understanding of future generations in New Zealand. This is where the Charlotte Museum blogs about her exhibitions, events, archives and lesbian history.”
We don’t have to be the building, a blog about Sian Torrington’s project of the same name, about “lesbian, bi-sexual, queer female bodied, trans* and female identified activists both 30 years ago during Homosexual Law Reform, and now” who are “telling our personal stories as a form of activism”. Sian drew and interviewed lesbian, queer and trans* women for an exhibition in Wellington in 2016 and Auckland in 2017.
Renée’s Wednesday Busk
He Hōaka Kim Mcbreen’s queer Māori political blog.
Out There Pat Rosier’s perceptive comments on her reading and the writing process, the last posts very poignant after her death in 2014.
The Hand Mirror Lesbian, queer and other feminist wrTwitteriting by a variety of bloggers.
Egg Venturous Claire Gummer’s whimsical writing about her backyard chooks and beyond.
Butch on Butch A Facebook page of photographs and comments.
I’m local Info and resources for queer & gender diverse youth around Aotearoa.

Blogs from elsewhere

Carolyn Gage A playwright, also a writer of lengthy and thoughtful blog posts.
diva grp2Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA) Fiji An active group of young lesbians linking their human rights with gender, social, ecological and constitutional justice; also on Twitter.
Isle of Lesbos “A place of art, culture, and learning dedicated to lesbian and bisexual women.”
The Lesbrary “The humble quest to read everything lesbian: a lesbian book blog”. Maintains its own “(Lesbian) Book Blog” roll (15 at last count).
Listening 2 Lesbians A page recording women’s experiences of being abused or silenced as lesbians and of being subjected to misogyny and lesbophobia within and outside the community;news stories on lesbian rights, violence and discrimination against the lesbian community.
Lizzy the Lezzy Lizzy started as an animated stand up comedian, and also has a Facebook presence.

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