Call it nepotism if you like, but I wanted to use my temporary editor powers to make you all aware of a project my cousin Leilah Weinraub has been working on called "SHAKEDOWN." The film chronicles the day-to-day lives of the owners and patrons of a black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles:
Leilah videotaped the shows at Shakedown two nights a weekend for six years. In an interview with Opening Ceremony, Leilah explains:
One night in 2002, I was on Santa Monica Blvd at 2 a.m. after the club let out, just watching all the girls be banji in the middle of the street, when this lesbian handed me a flier and was like, "Come to my graduation party!" On one side of the flier was a picture of her, all cute in a UCLA cap and gown. And on the other side was like a row of naked butts in thongs and the address for a venue in Inglewood. I was like "I WILL BE THERE!" The show at Shakedown was so amazing and everyone also knew each other. So I asked the owner Ronnie, "Can I work here?!" and I started taking still pictures regularly
Last month she was able to raise $29,525 to finish her mostly self-funded film through 694 micro-donations (over the course of two months) on her Kickstarter page.
This is one of the first documentaries of its kind, if not the first. Unlike most QPOC-oriented films such as "Paris Is Burning," this film was made by a queer person of color about queer people of color, and centered on women. It is such an incredible and important contribution to QPOC representation in film, and could inspire endless possibilities of new theory, art, and activism.
More from Leilah's Kickstarter page:
SHAKEDOWN is the story of a black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles. The film is anchored in the stories of three women: Ronnie Ron, the creator and emcee of Shakedown, a large butch/stud lesbian and former Jehovah's Witness; Egypt, a single mother, beauty pageant fanatic, and dedicated self - (re)inventor; and Jazmyne, the complicated and sometimes conflicted "Queen" of Shakedown. We go through the process of their labor with them and record what they do, and how they feel about what they are doing.
The films structure employs the cycle of money exchanged and passed through the world as a metaphor for energy; from costume maker to security guard to patrons to the dancer's children. SHAKEDOWN emphasizes the symbiotic nature of how things work in a system. Shakedown's system functions like a family, put into motion for all of the reasons that people need a family, support (financial and emotional), a place of self-growth and a place for self-expression. Through the lens of family, a desire for stability and love, the film meditates on dense topics like three generations of teenage pregnancy, lesbian motherhood, chosen family, and money as a symbol of that love.
From a meta-perspective, queer cultural production remains at the fringes of society today. It is largely undocumented, and therefore communities and art forms continuously disappear as stories are forgotten. So far, SHAKEDOWN, is an entirely self-funded project.
Leilah is now working to finish up some interviews and get the film out to be premiered. Keep an eye out for it!