They came from outer space, but their emotions are all too human.
So begins the tale of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, the first feature-length film from director Madeleine Olnek. Fresh from its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film festival, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same will have its New York City debut at the Rooftop Films Summer Series on Friday, June 24, during NYC’s Pride Weekend.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same tracks the adventures and misadventures of three love-lorn aliens from the planet Zots, a tiny orb near Saturn’s rings. Their superiors have banished them to New York City—a place where aliens often go unnoticed—to rid them of their emotions, which are toxic to Zots’s environment. Their mission: get their hearts broken on Earth, which the aliens’ leaders believe will be a piece
Two of the aliens, Zylar (Jackie Monahan), the promiscuous and sassy one, and Barr (Cynthia Kaplan), her codependent and clutchy sidekick, fall into a hapless romance with each other. The third extraterrestrial, Zoinx (Susan Ziegler), becomes enchanted with a shy greeting-card store clerk named Jane (Lisa Haas). Since Jane’s assertiveness-issues therapist has encouraged her to go on more dates, Jane asks Zoinx out—totally unaware that the tall, bald being who speaks only in monotone is a galactic interloper.
While the relationships develop, the aliens and Earthling are being tracked by two Men in Black from a certain U.S. security agency. As the agents tail them on visits to Coney Island and coffee houses, Zoinx is caught off guard when she finds herself in love with Jane, and knowing she must return to Zots. Zylar and Barr need to process their lesbian drama before getting back on the ship.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same is a knowing mash-up of lo-fi romantic comedy and sci-fi B-movie with an Atomic Age pulp twist. But within the kitschy framework, real humanity emerges. “[The film] is a comedy about the romantic despair that one can experience at the thought that there is truly no one out there for them. Why is it so difficult to meet someone who is compatible? Why do we engage in certain prescribed courtship rituals? Focusing on someone who is alien to our culture lets us look at these romantic assumptions in a new way,” Olnek says.
A prolific screenwriter and director, Olnek honed her skills in downtown NYC venues with more than 20 produced plays—all comedies—which enjoyed sell-out runs. At the time, comedies that focused directly on lesbian themes were unusual, and frequently consigned her work to edgy performance spaces rather than true theaters. Switching to independent film, Olnek studied filmmaking at Columbia University, where she was awarded the William Goldman Screenwriting Fellowship and the Adrienne Shelly Award/ Grant for Best Female Director.
“Telling stories about romantic love between women often guarantees that you will be working in a distinctly low-budget tradition,” Olnek admits. “I decided to exploit sci-fi as the most successfully realized of the low-budget B-movie genres, and meld it with a kind of a parody/ homage to the best/worst ‘earnest low-budget’ authentic women’s love stories—the kind of movie that hasn’t been seen since Go Fish. The ‘shlocky’ B-movie aspects of the film—shots of handmade tiny spaceships and cheesy special effects—combined with the documentary feel of the footage could come together in a unique combination to create a genre of its own.”
But she had a more, shall we say, supernatural reason for why she chose that path. “When we were working on the piece in the editing room, I stumbled across an Internet story that a UFO was hovering over Chelsea for an entire day,” she said. “Although it was mere blocks from my apartment, and although it was covered on several major networks and newspapers, no one in my building mentioned it. There was something amazing about the synchronicity of the event—it was like the city was telling the story along with me—so of course we had to stick it in the movie.”