By Rachel Woodward, May 23, 2017 —
Kings, Queens & In-Betweens screened at Dicken’s Pub on May 18 as a part of this year’s Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival. The documentary — directed by Gabrielle Burton and told through interviews with performers and their significant others — does an incredible job of presenting the many facets and obstacles of drag in Columbus, Ohio.
One of the most impressive parts of the film is that it begins by presenting the opposing viewpoints of being a member of the drag community. With the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race allowing drag personas and performances to enter the mainstream, Kings, Queens & In-Betweens works to tackle the questions and misconceptions that still exist. A lot of the film questions why drag is important to LGBTQ communities, specifically in Columbus, and deals with the politics and gender constructs that fuel drag performances.
The film also moves away from the image of a drag queen that is typically associated with drag performance. The depiction of drag kings and gender-bending are presented on the same level as the drag queen persona that is prevalent in mainstream culture.
While watching the film, I found myself most compelled by the demographics of those interviewed, as they all carry independence in their gender, sexual identity and even in their motivation to do drag. The visual representation of the gender and sexuality spectrum gives the film great importance by acknowledging the many different voices surrounding drag and presenting each opinion in an open-ended way. The focus on representation allows for the film to shine and does so in a way that celebrates differences instead of just pointing them out.
Another highlight of the film was the interviews with performers’ significant others about their own struggles with sexuality and gender identity. This, combined with clips of performances, helped the film never lose my interest. There were even instances of the performer’s parents being interviewed about their child, with some parents showing support and others being closed-minded and confused. This perspective was important because it captures the bigger picture and helps the viewer understand the performers’ lives more fully.
The aspect of community in this film is so welcoming to watch and understand, as even though some performers have rocky relationships with their parents, they are able to create and surround themselves with a community that is supportive and passionate. The film’s behind-the-scenes look at the life of drag performers is an experience that should be celebrated and welcomed with open arms.