Feature > Reel Affirmations 2009

Drag King Extravaganza

Date: Wednesday, 10/21/2009
Time: 5:00 pm

Venue: Shakepeare's Harman
Tickets: $10

Type: Feature presentation

Metro Weekly Rating: starstarstar (3 out of 5)

JUST WHAT IS a drag king? It's not merely the inverse of the far more widely-known drag queen -- today's world is not just bi-polar when it comes to gender. But even the experts stumble on defining the concept in the fascinating but flawed documentary Drag King Extravaganza. The phenomenon of male impersonation is at least a century old, but only in the past decade or so has it become popular practice in the lesbian and queer communities. Here, it's become more about ''gender-fuck'' performance art, where anyone can dress up as anyone, playing with traditional notions of masculinity and gender. It's a political act, even when it's not intended as such.

Directed by Clare Smith and Meaghan Derynck, the documentary focuses on the International Drag King Extravaganza, founded in 2000 in Columbus, Ohio. ''I will shave my legs for IDKE,'' one lesbian says about the annual performance-based convention, which has helped foster a sense of community for drag kings nationwide, as well as give the performers greater confidence in who they are and what skills they have to offer.

The filmmakers focus on more than a dozen such kings (including D.C.'s Ken Vegas) extensively talking one-on-one to the camera about what appeals to them about ''drag-kinging'' in general. None, however, delve into the specifics of the pageantry or illuminate just how a drag king becomes a drag king. And it's 15 minutes into the 43-minute documentary before we really get into a prolonged look at a performance. Even then it's only a montage of highlights from the first-ever IDKE, set to a basic house beat. Why not let viewers see a full performance or two, to give everyone a better sense of just how entertaining the kings can be?

More information

Film Links:

  • Reel Affirmations - full details

Festival Venue:

Shakespeare Theatre's Harman Center for the Arts
610 F Street, NW; Washington, DC 20004 [map]
(202) 547-1122
Near the Archives-Navy Memorial Yellow/Green Line Metro


For more information, pick up a copy of the Reel Affirmations 19 program guide or visit www.reelaffirmations.org.

For individual tickets and festival passes, visit www.reelaffirmations.org. Festival passes are $150 and allow for entry to all films except opening and closing nights. Tickets are available at the door of each showing or at Universal Gear (1529 14th St. NW).

For more information, call 202-547-1122 or visit www.reelaffirmations.org.