Critically acclaimed frockumentary Dressed As A Girl was the talk of the queer cinema scene when it premiered at The British Film Institute in March. Now it’s part of POUT, an LGBT film festival showcasing the best contemporary movies.
We caught up with Dressed As A Girl’s pontificating, prancing protagonist Jonny Woo to get a bit of a background on the film and how it’s been received.
Hey Jonny, tell us a bit about Dressed as a Girl for those who don’t know about it.
The film as a whole looks at six people who are on the gay scene in London and who are part of a scene, which in this case is the East London drag scene. And it looks at our lives, it looks at the trials we encounter and the way we overcome them. One of the things that Colin [Rothbart, director] chose to focus on at the beginning is how the excesses of partying led to my hospitalisation. My story starts there. It kicks off with that but that’s not the thrust of the film in any way.
Each of the characters are dealing with their own demons and experiencing their own triumphs. It’s filmed over six years and it celebrates the scene without unnecessarily saying it’s greater than it actually is. It watches it and documents it in a higher, objective way.
How did you come to be involved in the film?
Because Colin the director and Holestar who’s in it had an idea of documenting the scene. It was going to be just about Glastonbury. I’m part of the gay tent [NYC Downlow] that goes to Glastonbury, I’m one of the people who started it all up, and so I agreed to be in it. They wanted people to be in it and I agreed to take part. We didn’t have any idea which way the film was going to go. It just got longer and longer and ended up being a film that documented our lives.
It’s difficult to follow people around. When people are getting on with their lives it’s not necessarily that convenient for them to be documented continuously. All the cast have their various lives so it wasn’t really possible to do a six month look at the scene.
Can you see a transformation in yourself over the last six years?
I can see a transformation in myself and I can see a transformation from the final interview I gave. In my final interview I’m giving, it’s about stopping drinking and I’ve got a kind of earnest attitude towards it. I’m a lot more relaxed about it now and there are snippets of interviews I gave I can really see the changes, physically and more to my attitude, my handle on things. You grow up in six years and I changed a lot in the past year. The characters changed physically and they also changed their attitude to their lives, not just in the drag scene, which is continuous. We fall in and out of love with it.
What’s the response been like so far?
People generally respond to it very well. Obviously people who are more familiar with the scene and familiar with the characters really respond to it because it’s nice to see something they’re familiar with being documented. I think it’s a really interesting, honest, unpretentious documentary that doesn’t try to be too clever.
What do you think the viewers will take away from it?
I think people come away feeling very lifted, and feeling that there’s a community, and that all this stuff about the scene is dying isn’t necessarily true. The London scene is thriving and vibrant and very strong. It’s about the people in it. If you want to truly see the gay community, watch this film.
• DRESSED AS A GIRL is screening at Picturehouse Central on 6th September, with a live cabaret performance and Q&A afterwards.