Now in its 25th year, the St. Louis International Film Festival returns for another great year of films this month. The festival is currently running through November 13. Vital VOICE got a chance to preview a few of the films featured this year, one of them being “Girl on Girl,” which will be playing tonight, November 9, at 7:30 p.m. at The .Zack Performing Arts Incubator.
Filmed over the course of four years, “Girl on Girl,” by film creator Jodi Savitz, is a informative documentary that delves into the dynamic issues of invisibility within the lesbian community. Savitz, a graduate of Northwestern University, brilliantly links together the narratives of six women to examine the wide scope of this invisibility, transitioning from personal ordeals like Multiple Sclerosis to systematic policies like Don’t Ask Don’t Don’t Tell. And while Savitz examines these external conflicts, she also takes the time to investigate the intimate issues of what it means to be a feminine lesbian, specifically in an environment that separates femininity and queer identity.
Having struggled with these problems herself, Savitz relates just how difficult it is to be a apart of the queer community when one does not identify with the “stereotypical” or prevalent behavior. “I came out in Miami, where the Latina community—a community of very feminine woman—was predominate; being feminine myself, I felt comfortable and apart of my community,” she says. “It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago, where this hyper femininity really didn’t exist, that I started to feel isolated and invisible.” She recounts how individuals would continuously assume or question the legitimacy of her sexuality, calling into question both her identity and her integrity; ultimately forcing her to come out on a daily basis.
“Going into this, I think the goal for me was to show the need people have to express their sexuality, without wanting to come out everyday—because it is something we [feminine lesbians] are forced to do. We are constantly having to identify ourselves, or insist that we ARE indeed lesbians, for people to take us seriously.”
This sentiment is clearly illustrated within the narratives, and hits a rather poignant moment when Ashleigh and Desitni, an interracial couple, discuss the myriad of setbacks they’ve faced not only as a couple, but as mothers to their biracial daughter. Having had, in the past, permitted people to gloss over their relationship as a friendship, Ashleigh and Destini—in wanting to start a family—point out their difficulties with recognition. Taking their daughter to the doctors and being mistaken as an “aunt” or as a “nanny,” being told “their too pretty to be lesbians,” or even trying to contribute to a conversation regarding queer culture and having their contributions mitigated, are just some of the instances in which these women have had to fight for their identities as parents, lesbians, and partners.
Overall, Savitz meticulously examines the lives of her subjects to demonstrate how what people see, versus what exists beneath surface based observations, is often drastically different. Whereas a woman who embraces her femininity may be perceived as a heterosexual woman (and she might be), she can also be a proud lesbian, a veteran, suffering from MS, a mother, an activist, and so much more. It is not our perception that dictates the identity of others, and it is not our right to place our opinions onto others as fact. V
by Brandon Sheldrake
**“Girl on Girl” will be screening TONIGHT, November 9th, at the Zach. 3224 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO.**