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CIMM Fest: Sissyboy

By Joseph Erbentraut in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 3, 2010 9:20PM

2010_03_03_sissyboy.jpg This is part of Chicagoist's coverage of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, which runs March 4-7.

"I think drag shows are incredibly boring. I hate drag shows," says Zebra, the founder of Portland's Sissyboy, the now-defunct drag troupe featured, often with minimal tucking and visible body hair, in Katie Turinski's documentary of the same name.

Sissyboy, a group of self-described "amazing faggots who don't fit into their normal lives," performed for three years in the Rose City before disbanding and scattering in a flurry of gender ambiguity across the nation. Together, they presented a very different variety of the modern-day drag show with their raucous monthly showcases that live on through this first-time filmmaker's work. Via interviews with the performers and footage of their shows, viewers are allowed to peer into a world where the accusation of "sissy" doesn't carry the emasculating power it once did on the playground. Reclaiming that power is what this documentary is all about.

Drawing from "cocktails, abortions and anger," the inked-up, foul-mouthed performers look to pop culture and their own lives for inspiration. At one moment, two queens are singing a L'Trimm song reappropriated to tell the story of two burqa-draped women's love for "the bombs that go boom." The next, they're singing about Matthew Shepard's murder. Finally, one performer offers a piece titled Live In the Moment and Love, exploring his brother's suicide. The work is dark, slathered with glitter and, always, at least a bit uncomfortable.

And yet, Sissyboy maintains an air of intimacy that makes it difficult to look away. This is not a film for the easily startled, but that's sort of the point. The troupe offers an example of what can happen when the disenfranchised band together to create, rather than destroy. And it's a beautiful thing, in its own ugly little way.

Can't wait until Saturday to get your Sissyboy on? Former troupe members will be on hand for a live performance at Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont, Friday at midnight. $5 cover with a stamp to receive a half-off discount on the next day's screening.

Sissyboy screens at St. Paul's Cultural Center on March 6 at 4:30 p.m.