Shotgun Cinema presents SHAKEDOWN

By Shotgun CinemaPublished on 11/30/2018

We will be presenting Leilah Weinraub’s glorious documentary SHAKEDOWN this Friday (11/30), preceded by the short FUCKED LIKE A STAR, an experimental travelogue and meditation on soldier ants set to words from Toni Morrison’s novel Tar Baby, whose producer Zuri Obi will be in attendance.

SHAKEDOWN is a film about a titular series of underground black lesbian strip club nights in pre- and post-Y2K Los Angeles. Weinraub documented the scene in the clubs, backstage, and via ephemera like a wide variety of show flyers with both clever and not-at-all-subtle nods to the night’s attractions. This is a very exciting film for us to show to a broader audience, in part because it sheds light on a particular scene that relatively few of us had or have access to. Weinraub’s footage is unflinching, showcasing the glory, explicitness and pleasure, and difficulty of raising the events. While mostly hewing to the vérité images in and around the clubs, she bookends the film by interviewing figures like Egypt and Miss Mahogany, leading performers in the scene.

The value of seeing unique and vital LGBTQ spaces like this onscreen will be noted, but we were also drawn to the presence of an extremely small niche audience for these events. In 2018, we have dramatically increased access to culture and social histories of all kinds, and can participate accordingly; but it’s just as important to have culture that’s niche, ephemeral, confrontational, or just overlooked. As SHAKEDOWN powerfully illustrates, these types of subcultures define their own terms, adding strength to individuals and groups without the focus on growth that we are made aware of today. The film itself acts both as a bridge (to a broader audience) and as a reminder of the continued need for small, intimate, niche culture. Weinraub has said that she’s releasing the film now because the types of radical and explicit images that pepper the film are now widely available; one result of this fact is that viewers can focus in on other aspects of the scene clearly, in all their complexity.

But it’s also possible to watch SHAKEDOWN pretty much only for its swagger, style, and energy. The camera often holds a front-row seat for the dancers, clientele, and inimitable MCs, drifting and weaving through chaotic light shows, speakers cranked into overdrive, and the power of the dancers themselves. The grainy standard-definition video lends a fascinating patina to the proceedings: aside from using its own expressive power, its quality lends a feeling that Yes this existed in a particular time and place, and Yes it’s definitely over. To this end, Weinraub winds up capturing some hair-raising footage that proves the need for protection and nurturing of spaces for people to truly be themselves together.

Upcoming Screenings