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Festivals Film Reviews Raindance Film Festival 2024

Review: Avant-Drag! Histrionic, extra, and crucial to society

  • Release year: 2024
  • Director: Fil Ieropoulos.
  • Producers: Spyros Patsouras and Sebastian Strakowicz.
  • Screenplay by: Foivos Dousos.
  • Cinematography by: Mihalis Gkatzogias.
  • Music by: Lykourgos Porfyris.

Synopsis: a portrayal of some of the most original drag queens in Athens.

Shotgun Commentary: a fascinating look into an obscure lifestyle in Athens.

Still from Avant-Drag! (Fil Ieropoulos, 2024).

Review

Avant-Drag! shines a light on the lives of out-of-the-norm drag queens that live in Athens. One after the other, they introduced themselves, their type of drag, their message and their influences. After these solo sections, they all get together to discuss the drag sphere in Athens, what it means to do this art and how it is met by the Greek society.

Strange but essential

For mainstream audiences, especially those unfamiliar with alternative drag, this film might be a bit hardcore. Nudity aside, if you are hypersensitive to bodily fluids, there is a high chance you are going to hate the content with every fibre of your being. These artists push the boundaries of social correctness. They challenge the common definitions of decorum, modesty and rectitude in a society that has proven to be anything but.

Regardless of your opinion about their art, which is completely subjective, the matter of fact is that Greece has been going through dark times for a very long while now. These performers are a reflection of all the societal problems they’ve had to face. They transform into a satirical reflection of the worst Greek values. Whether they consider that to be racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc., they make a caricature of it.

Still from Avant-Drag! (Fil Ieropoulos, 2024). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

The bravery that each one of them display every time they go out on the streets in drag, knowing the dangers they could potentially face, is truly inspiring for any artist. For any person who knows what it’s like to be targeted for being different, really. Under all the layers of makeup, chaotic behaviour and extravagant clothes, there is a warrior fighting to get some justice. To change old-fashioned values that shouldn’t be in existence any more. They challenge the old ways and offer a glimpse of the freedom and happiness that the future could hold if only we let go of prejudice and hatred.

If it weren’t for those meddling politicians

Curiously, one of the most shocking moments in the documentary has nothing to do with drag. Rather, with the reason why one of the performers does it. They talk about how their father’s boss decided to change his name out of the blue. Not because it was hard to pronounce, but rather to Hellenise him. While changing one’s name voluntarily is a personal choice, no one should ever feel like they can change others. It doesn’t matter that they are your workers. They are not pets nor plushies, they are human beings and their identity can only be defined by themselves.

Of course, this would also apply to gender, sexual orientation and reproductive rights. Themes that are made controversial by politicians who want to rule over the personal choices of people. It is funny how these type of “controversial” decisions always affect the freedom of women, queer people, and ethnic minorities. It would be nice to see how the people making decisions on other people’s bodies would react if the tables were turned. Maybe they would stop preaching about freedom while taking it away.

Solidarity…?

The last part of the feature consists of a lunch in which all the artists get together. Disregarding the absolute germophobe nightmare situation, the topics that are brought up are incredibly interesting. Especially the empathy and nourishment, or lack thereof, in the drag community.

Still from Avant-Drag! (Fil Ieropoulos, 2024).

It is always strange to hear about fighting within a group that already has to fight everyone around them just to exist. The competition is understandably fierce. Nevertheless, ostracising alternative drag queens for being different feels, quite honestly, like a bad joke. However, like they say, thinking that everyone is nice is utopian thinking and just not realistic. But one still likes to dream, no?

All in all, Avant-Drag! is a daring, cheeky piece of work that showcases a culture that is not widely known, but that brings so much good to society. For people unused to independent art, it can be quite extreme in its imagery, yet its message is worth every second of challenge to your views of art.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Judging people by their looks is sooo 2000…BC.
  • As beings with rational thought, hating and attacking anything that is different should be a source of great shame.
  • No one should have the right to tell you what to do with your body and your identity. NO. ONE.
Still from Avant-Drag! (Fil Ieropoulos, 2024). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

What’s your take? Have you watched Avant-Drag!? Did you take away any lessons from it? What was your favourite performance? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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