Jul 12, 2015

[TV] Between a Frock & a Hard Place

It has been 20 years since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was first released in Australia. The movie has well-known as one of those must-watch LGBT movies among various circles, whether or not you think you totally appreciate drag queens just yet. It's quite the powerful piece of LGBT cultural history almost, when you look at it pretty seriously. Plus it will always be a really fun and campy movie.

I recently stumbled across the documentary Between a Frock & a Hard Place and I don't know why I thought it might be a piece about LGBT priests or something - I guess because of the term frock? But then when I finally read up on what the little TV piece was about, I was even more excited to watch it.

I proudly admit that I've fallen more and more in love with drag culture over the years, and this show was rather fascinating to explore since it talked about the movie and that period in Australian LGBT history. And what really struck me was just how much thought went into this project. The result is more than just a comedic piece of entertainment - it was also a statement and perhaps even a rallying call for others in the community.

Synopsis: Between a Frick & a Hard Place is a television documentary produced by Jungleboys and aired on Australia's ABC channel to mark over 20 years of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The show was narrated by Terence Stamp, who played the role of Bernadette in the film.'

The documentary takes an interesting approach to discussing this unique film and its place in history. On the historical front, we first look at the state of affairs in Australia at the time complete with its greater emphasis on masculine qualities in men and the fact that homosexuality was still illegal in many parts of Australia. It sounds like a common enough story if you've read up on the LGBT rights struggle in different countries, but this is where things diverse.

It struck me as particularly interesting to that they talked about how drag queens became sort of the symbols or even the leaders of the LGBT rights struggle in Australia. And that's something that I think we can probably relate to when you look at the state of affairs in the Philippines. There are a good number of parallels between the state of affairs in our two countries and I can see how some of the lessons learned there might apply here. But more on this later.

Beyond the somewhat more political historical context to the film and the environment that inspired this movie, the bulk of the feature is naturally focused on the story of the movie itself. And with Terrence Stamp as narrator, there's also a bit more of a personal feel to things, particular with the stories of how he got involved in the production and the work he went through in terms of bringing the character to life.

But this is a pretty extensive documentary that made sure to include writer-directors Stephen Elliot and other leading actors Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce. And the're different perspectives on things and the various stories they had to share all went quite a long way towards fleshing out this narrative. We also got to meet many of the personalities from behind the scenes that helped inspire different characters or aspects of the film.

Despite the effort to marry the rise of Australian LGBT rights demonstrations and the birth of Mardi Gras together with the history of the film, I was glad that it didn't feel like a particularly heavy documentary nor a heavy-handed one with a political slant of some sort. Sure it treats drag queens as almost heroic figures right there on the front lines of things, but it doesn't push things to a ridiculous degree. After all, this documentary is still more about the story behind the movie and not necessarily everything else. And it does all this in a rather beautiful manner.

The most is rather inspiring on some levels - and I mean this both in terms of the desire to produce a truly creative approach or even when it comes to the larger fight for LGBT rights and recognition in the Philippines. And given it managed to do this within an hour, I think that says a lot about the quality of the production and how well they put things together. Documentaries are more than just simply pulling up historical photos and posting various interview clips. It still needs to have a story to some degree and the overall structure uses the historical pieces to tell a larger story.

I'm really glad that Between a Frock & a Hard Place exists as a documentary. It's a great look behind the scenes of a much-celebrated movie and a valuable reminder of how far things have come and the role that drag queens have played in things. Thus is gets 5 old photos of Hugo Weaving in drag out of a possible 5.


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