bruce labruce tackles future feminism in his new film
We caught up with the iconic filmmaker and photographer, to talk about his commitment to radical feminism, the homosexual revolution and filmmaking.
In his latest work, the iconic and perverse director picks up where his 2004 film The Raspberry Reich left off, imagining a separatist feminist cell planning on overthrowing the patriarchy. It's what happens when a man accidentally infiltrates their HQ in the Ger(wo)man countryside that it all starts to go a bit wrong. To fund The Misandrists, LaBruce has taken to Kickstarter - only with your money will the lesbian intifada be funded. Here he talks about his commitment to radical feminism and filmmaking.
What fascinates you about the subject of your earlier film The Raspberry Reich, which revolved around a Baader-Meinhof-esque group?
One of the reasons I returned to it doesn't really have to do with the Baader-Meinhof, it was more about the fact that in The Raspberry Reich I made a film about homosexual revolution, even though it was a kind of tongue in cheek in some ways. Gudrun, the leader of the Raspberry Reich; her idea of revolution was homosexual revolution, and that people who weren't even gay should have homosexual sex in order to prove their revolutionary commitment. I wanted to make that provocative statement about sexual revolution. There were no lesbians included in the film, or in her philosophy, and I have some lesbians friends who would complain there was no lesbian angle. So I wanted to make a lesbian terrorist.
The Raspberry Reich was very much based on Gudrun Ensslin, and in the course of my research I found out how interesting Ulrike Meinhof is too. Someone gave me her book, called Everybody Talks About the Weather, We Don't, which is a collection of her writing. She was a great columnist and really spelled out her politics and feminist beliefs. I just read that before I wrote the script and found it very inspiring.
How did you go about casting the film? It stars both your friends Susanne Sachsse and artist Kembra Pfahler, and a lot of unknowns.
On a small film like this, which is really low budget, I use different methods of casting. I do it through social media and word of mouth, connections. And then I actually wrote the script with Susanne in mind because I thought it would be cool for her to reprise the role [from The Raspberry Reich] but find something different in it. And you know Kembra has this whole part of her work recently called future feminism, which is so similar to what i'm talking about in the film, so I really thought she had to be a part of it. And then there these two Danish girls I met - I had a gallery talk in Berlin last November, and these two young eighteen year old Danish girls showed up, and they're filmmakers, and we talked afterwards. I thought they'd be perfect for the film and so I wrote parts of it for them. So in that way, some people are playing themselves in the film. We also used a professional casting agency for the girls which worked out really well.
Can you talk a little bit about where the plot line came from?
The film is technically set in 1999, and it's kind of addressing the end of second wave feminism. When I was in university in the eighties there were a lot of essential feminists and radical lesbian separatists. It was really about the idea of something essentially female, that is closely related to the earth, fecundity, growth, Mother Earth and the planet, but also a more nurturing, empathetic way of looking at the world. So I found that really interesting and had a soft spot for lesbian separatists. And their militancy, and they're really taking a strong stand against the patriarchy. So it's really about those kinds of feminists.
In grad school I took a class called 'psychoanalysis and feminism', and I was the only guy in the class. After the class was over they were going to have a seminar, and they voted whether or not to allow me to attend. And they voted against [laughs]! I've experienced it firsthand.
Just like The Raspberry Reich, the film treads a delicate balance between an affectionate critique of feminism and the beliefs that the characters had, these radical feminists. Their ideas, I sort of agree with, especially that equal rights mean nothing if you're striving to become equal in a system that is already unequal and corrupt. So that's one of them main theses of these feminists, that there's no sense in having equality in this exploitative world.
Whereas current minority movements err more on the side of assimilation.
It really is the ultimate post feminist goal that has emerged, to prove that you're equally as merciless or ambitious or willing to exploit others to gain power. It's a kind of reformist and assimilationist approach that not many of us imagined would happen in the gay radical days of the 80s.
Radical feminism's most recent pop culture moment was the episode of Transparent set in the Womyn's retreat.
And now you have Caitlyn Jenner on the next series of Transparent! That's the ultimate expression, the ultimate result of this kind of assimilationist politics - the main spokesperson for transgender people is a rich, white, Republican, Christian, Conservative. It gives you a little vertigo somehow. To recognise that the gay movement is no longer a reliably leftist movement at all, it's become something else.
It seems timely that you've returned to terrorism as a taboo subject.
Yeah, people are preoccupied with geopolitical things like terrorism, which is held over our heads, this weapon so we live in fear. It's easy to forget about things like feminism or gay rights, which are the first things to be swept under the carpet because they don't think it's a priority or they don't take it seriously.
It's like they say in The Raspberry Reich: "No revolution without sexual revolution. No sexual revolution without homosexual revolution." They're not things that are inconsequential that you can simply pick them up, they're very essential to solving the world's problems. How women are treated in society is a direct reflection of that society.
Text Jack Sunnucks
All photos by Bruce LaBruce