Filmmaker Bruce LaBruce Gets "Provocative and Political!"
Getting explicit and merciless in The Misandrists
We could all use a bit more misandry in our lives, and director Bruce LaBruce's latest film, making its Texas premiere at this weekend's Contrast Film Festival, gives us just that. One part feminist battle cry, one part queer camp, and one part critical satire, The Misandrists will certainly make the squeamish squirm, but also manages to walk the fine line between comedy and controversy. If this film doesn't make you go "Hmmm," well, we don't know what will.
Written and directed by the New Queer Cinema filmmaker, The Misandrists works as a loose sequel to 2004's The Raspberry Reich, and is an even looser remake of The Beguiled (the 1971 adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan's novel with Clint Eastwood, not Sofia Coppola's 2017 version). Featuring an almost all-woman cast, The Misandrists follows the Female Liberation Army, an underground militant group of women masquerading as a Catholic boarding school in Ger(wo)many. Their secret mission? Use woman-on-woman porn to fund and fuel the takedown of the patriarchy ... and eradicate men. Lots of queer sex and bold makeup ensues.
The film stars a multitude of artists and actors including LaBruce's longtime friend and muse (and star of both The Raspberry Reich and his 2008 film Otto; or, Up With Dead People) Susanne Sachße as FLA leader Big Mother, as well as New York-based performance artists Kembra Pfahler and Viva Ruiz (who will also be in town for Contrast). Kita Updike, whom the filmmaker found on Facebook, and several Berlin-based porn stars round out the cast – and do some interesting things with a hard-boiled egg.
But it's not all fun and games in the lesbian revolution. A (cisgender) man makes it into the boarding house, and acts as a foil to one of the FLA's rank-and-file, threatening the movement. The film, relying largely on satire, boldly addresses a sect of second-wave feminism that spawned trans exclusionary radical feminists (known as TERFs on the street). LaBruce said he was inspired to tell this story because it was "time for movies to deal with feminist issues that address new vs. old feminism." Specifically, he said, "new intersectionality as opposed to exclusionary [politics]."
And that it does. Throughout the movie, where an anti-men agenda is heavily pushed ("I don't need to watch gay porn to be disgusted by men," declares one FLA member), there's no escaping the question: Is there space for trans women (not to mention trans men, and nonbinary people) in the FLA's somewhat enticing vision? The answer is complicated, though LaBruce is adamant, the film is a critique of TERF beliefs. "The idea that [trans women] are some kind of imposters is absurd."
Recalling the early days of coming out, LaBruce said he once understood separatist groups. "So many years of oppression and violence," he noted, could trigger "extreme" responses. His history has given him both an appreciation for what he describes as "strong, militaristic women" and an unease with "certain tenants of second-wave feminism."
So it's no wonder that The Misandrists is politically charged. So charged, in fact, that it even had a tough time getting into cinemas, and for a moment LaBruce believed the movie wouldn't play in America. But after a slow start, it has premiered in nearly 30 cities to positive reviews. While noting his disappointment about being rejected from some of the biggest LGBTQ film festivals in the U.S. and Canada, he said he encourages moviegoers to keep an open mind, because ultimately, the purpose of this film is to make you think. "I've had people who take issue with the film challenge me at Q&As, [and] that's fine. That's what movies are for: to be provocative and political."