aGLIFF Honoree Rose Troche Looks Back at Go Fish
Director remembers her era-defining directorial debut
What kind of foreplay is nail cutting? Lesbian foreplay. At least, that's what many of us learned – or laughed about – watching Rose Troche's seminal lesbian film Go Fish, which manages to touch on almost every lesbian stereotype like an inside joke or a wink to all the queer girls watching. The 1994 black-and-white film about lesbian love and friendship will receive the Tribute Award this weekend at the 32nd annual All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival.
And Troche, she's honored. "I'm so proud of that movie," she said. Calling the film "ragtag," Troche doesn't believe Go Fish exemplifies "extraordinary filmmaking": Instead, she recalled it being a "work of love" and said "everyone," the cast and crew, really wanted to make the movie she wrote with her then-girlfriend Guinevere Turner. Shot over the course of many days – 32? 52? Troche can't remember exactly, but she knows it was long and often called for the sacrifice of weekends and after-work hours – lifelong friendships were formed.
But the impetus for Go Fish stemmed from Troche and Turner's belief that the previous generation of lesbians weren't "representing us correctly." The power of the film – which they promoted as by, for, and about women – lay in that desire to put lesbian life on camera at a time when the AIDS epidemic was still claiming thousands of lives and the world was "villainizing queer people," recalled Troche, noting that the film "pressed a button" socially. "It never apologized for what it was."
Coming up on its 25th anniversary, Troche admitted, "It's always shocking how quickly time passes. ... Now it's a historical document about resetting the image [of queer life]. I'm so happy the community is still embracing it."
Yet her relationship with Go Fish is a complicated one – and not just because she made the film with Turner (in true lesbian form, Troche confirms they're still friends, too). As a "maker," Troche rightly describes the film as its "own being," a movie that's not only become iconic, but part of a cultural competency list for queer women of a certain era, right next to Stone Butch Blues, Tegan and Sara, and But I'm a Cheerleader. But the film's importance has "put me in a moment in time," explained Troche, akin to "having your sweater snagged on a door from 25 years ago. You almost want to take that sweater off and have this other work to talk about."
But Troche's scope of work is far from limited to Go Fish. Aside from her other film work (she's currently prepping her fourth feature; her second, Bedrooms and Hallways, also screens at aGLIFF), she has worked on a variety of other seminal lesbian pop culture productions, including Showtime's The L Word (she directed the pilot and wrote five episodes), teen drama series South of Nowhere, and most recently Starz's Vida. When asked how it feels to have touched so many groundbreaking LGBTQ productions, Troche admitted, "It feels really good," but added with a laugh: "I feel like I've shot so many sex scenes – lesbian sex scenes – it's not even funny." In all seriousness, though, both Go Fish and The L Word offered Troche, as a writer, a place to share stories about her own life. "It's wonderful," said Troche, to "imbue a character with your history. And because we're not as alone as we think we are, it resonates with other people."
Over the years, and especially recently, Troche is seeing more and more young lesbian filmmakers working. "I'm no longer one of four to call," she joked. Describing the influx of new blood as "very necessary," Troche noted that the younger generation is stepping up and demanding space to tell their stories – as she and Turner did 25 years ago. But she hopes queer women storytellers can soon get to a place that's beyond "pulling from our lives." Pointing to both Vida and the L Word reboot returning later this year, Troche opined that the shows "still have the same pressure to be 'authentic' representations" of lesbians and queer women, "whatever that means; it's not like we're a monolith. Women have extraordinary imaginations. Let's tell The Lesbian Leftovers!"
It's this desire for something new – and the urge to feel Go Fish-level "naive again" – that's led Troche to her current work in virtual reality. Go Fish, she noted, came from "such a sincere and earnest place, which is very difficult to replicate in one's career, but that's the dragon I chase." As part of Oculus VR for Good, which pairs rising filmmakers with nonprofits for VR storytelling, Troche is putting together an interactive experience about homelessness that'll take viewers/players inside a woman's tent as a way to get to know the character and learn about her life. Troche's previous projects have addressed sexual assault on college campuses and police shootings. Still, she lends her directing talents to the silver screen, and she's also working to get a new queer comedy off the ground. And while she might be ready to take off the sweater that is Go Fish, she admits: "The love that this movie has gotten has allowed me, over the years, to say I'm going to continue to do queer work."
aGLIFF presents the 25th anniversary screening of Go Fish Sun., Aug. 25, 11:30am. See Bedrooms and Hallways Sat., Aug. 24, 9:15pm.
All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar
Tickets and info at www.agliff.org.