Documentary, 1 h 55 min
“Queer Genius” is a cinematic exploration of four visionary queer artists breaking down barriers in their creative fields as they confront fame, failure, censorship, family, gender, and sexuality.
A multi-faceted look at the lives of four queer artists
Queer Genius (2019, dir. Catherine Pancake) tells the stories of four queer female artists: filmmaker Barbara Hammer, performance artist/writer Black Quantum Futurism, video/performance artist Jibz Cameron, and poet Eileen Myles. Their crafts are explored, as well as their specific roads in and through queerness. The artists are all interdisciplinary in themselves, and span across several mediums: poetry, filmmaking, performance art, animation, live art, drawing, and everything in between.
The documentary is structured in a similarly interdisciplinary way – every section is introduced by a short animation, and the interviews and talking heads are interwoven with fragments of the art that the women have created. While this means that the overall documentary creates an aesthetic uniformity that binds the stories together, the women very clearly come to their art from different angles – for some, their activism introduced them into the art world, whereas others started exploring art as a more personal outlet.
Where Queer Genius falters a little, is that it isn’t always clear how the various stories connect to each other. However, this is purely a question of format – if you imagine the documentary as a miniseries of four episodes, this ceases to be a problem. Particularly the different historical and demographic aspects that each story highlights, actually make for a nice, complementary education into different strands of art and activism.
Altogether, the documentary is a good entry point for those of us who may not be as familiar with contemporary queer art as we would like to be. The documentary doesn’t presume prior knowledge, but also doesn’t shy away from getting into quite niche topics. Being at once a very intimate exploration of queer private life, and general insights into queer artistry, there are interesting angles for everyone to explore.
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This review was written by:
Pippa is a writer and researcher, who is currently preparing her PhD research on LGBT+ experiences in Higher Education. She's working very hard to watch every LGBT+ film ever made.