While The Celluloid Closet and Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema examine the history of LGBTQ depictions in film, no documentary has exclusively centered on the representation of queer women. The upcoming documentary Dykes, Camera, Action! gives a much-needed exploration of lesbian cinema from the 1970s to now, and celebrates its most influential films with the women who led the genre.
Directed, produced and edited by Caroline Berler, her idea for Dykes, Camera, Action! evolved after interviewing director Rose Troche of Go Fish and The L Word fame. Berler continued to talk with more women filmmakers and critics who contributed to queer cinema, like Barbara Hammer, Su Friedrich, Cheryl Dunye, Desiree Akhavan, Vicky Du and B. Ruby Rich — who are included in the documentary along with many more.
The release of Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts in 1985 broke new ground for visibility of queer women on the big screen, but lesbian films didn’t reach a landmark until the mid to late 90s. From Bound to But I’m a Cheerleader, these movies triggered enthusiasm for an entire generation of lesbians. On Dykes, Camera, Action!’s Seed&Spark campaign page, Berler reflects, “Back then I didn’t know any openly gay adults in my community, so I looked to the movies for role models. Luckily I came of age just in time to discover the amazing queer films that were coming out then — what I now realize was a watershed moment for queer cinema. These movies with lesbian characters at their center, which I discovered in the aisles of my local video store, were the greatest source of comfort to me, and gave me hope for my future. I probably watched But I’m A Cheerleader and High Art 5,000 times.”
Though we’re currently experiencing a boom in lesbian films this year, representation of lesbians in Hollywood is overwhelmingly invisible, especially compared to the G in LGBTQ. The timing of Dykes, Camera, Action!’s upcoming release couldn’t be better, as it reminds us of the importance of championing lesbian cinema while acknowledging its roots and innovators. As we get excited for new releases, it’s essential to look back at where it all began.
Dykes, Camera, Action! is currently in post-production, and screenings will be announced in the future. Keep updated on the documentary on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and check out the trailer below!