It’s as though we’ve seen two different films, with José bowled over by Joker‘s social commentary, Mike bored and annoyed by its perceived self-satisfaction – not to mention an audience that applauded at the end. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is explored to be a product of an uncaring, broken society that reaps in him what it sows, in a 1981 Gotham City that is the New York City of the era in all but name. José argues that the film will become a bellwether of the time, depicting the anger of the oppressed and downtrodden – Mike suggests, though, that in demonising them and aligning them to villainy, it gives the right-wing what it wants, in a vision of antifa, the enemy it believes it faces.
We discuss issues of race and representation, Mike seeing similarities between some of the film’s scenes and real-life historical crimes to which they may refer, and in observing racial components and changes to them, asks what the purpose may be, though, struggles to work towards an answer. And José remarks favourably upon everything aesthetic, including the way in which poverty is written into Phoenix’s withered form, the expressiveness and grace of his movement, and the film’s use of shallow focus.
There’s a lot going on in Joker, both on its own terms and in the cultural conversations it has ignited, and it may be worth a second go.
The film is just out and has already incited interesting debate:
Juanjo Cid is an activist and filmmaker from the Dominican Republic. I first met him at the EICTV Film School in Cuba, the year there was a great gay carnival, a mini-pride parade in the courtyard of the school with rainbow flags, and drag, a bonfire and lots of music and dancing. The whole school joined in the celebrations. It was a joyful event which seemed amazing to me in Cuba, even if it did take place in the protected socio-cultural bubble that is the school.
I´ve been wanting to talk to Juanjo since I reconnected with him in the Dominican Republic last year. He´s at the centre of an intersection of art-making, night-clubbing and activism that is so interesting to me because it´s so archetypal of queer cultures world-wide. This is the first of a series of a series of excerpts of a very long conversation which took place in his home and which I will publish as different podcasts.
In this first one I wanted to know what constitutes gay activism in a poor country that, despite a recent burst of prosperity, is still ridden by poverty, inequality, corruption; one in which the Catholic Church still enjoys considerable power, and one in which an increasingly popular and very homophobic evangelical church is gaining in influence. Juanjo gives a thoughtful, articulate, and highly entertaining account of what drove him into queer activism ten years ago and why he continues to be involved today in organisations such as IURA (Individuales Unidos por Respeto y Armonía/ Individuals United for Respect and Harmony)
Juanjo´s account in this particular podcast should be of particular interest to those of you who are currently queer activists elsewhere or are working for NGO´s and International Agencies: ‘International Aid is amazing. Thank You!