FABULOUS

Lasseindra Ninja, the main character of the film, is a professional transgenre dancer born in 1986. She’s a well-known artist in France’s voguing scene. After building her career through the balls of New York, France and Brazil, among many other main stages, she comes back to her home country to introduce voguing in French Guiana. By the means of her workshop, we catch a glance of its emergence and its impact on self-empowerment for a consolidating LGBTQ community. A glimpse of self-liberation and freedom of expression through the body.

  • Audrey Jean-Baptiste
    Director
  • Audrey Estrougo
    Producer
  • Lasseindra Ninja
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    LGBT, Art, Queer, voguing
  • Runtime:
    46 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    France
  • Country of Filming:
    Guyana
  • Language:
    French
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • FRAMELINE
    San Francisco
    United States
    June 22, 2019
    California Premiere
    Official Selection
  • OUTFEST LOS ANGELES
    LOS ANGELES
    United States
    July 22, 2019
    LOS ANGELES
    Official Selection
  • INSIDEOUT
    TORONTO
    Canada
    May 31, 2019
    NORTH AMERICA
    Official Selection
  • DAMN THESE HEELS FILM FESTIVAL – UTAH FILM CENTER
    SALT LAKE CITY
    United States
    July 14, 2019
    Official Selection
  • MIX MILANO
    Milano
    Italy
    June 22, 2019
    Italian
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • OUTPLAY FILMS
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Audrey Jean-Baptiste

After studying anthropology and a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, Audrey Jean-Baptiste has been working for ten years as assistant director for television and cinema. In parallel, she directs self-produced films, trains herself in screenwriting and participates in several writing residencies. She made her first documentary, Fabulous, produced by Six Onze Films. She is currently preparing the film Les Cœurs battants produced by Les Films Grand Huit.

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Director Statement

MEETING LASSEINDRA :
I worked for several years on the writing of a fiction film about the return to the country of a Guyanese dancer. I was then interested in a recurring male figure in my father’s entourage: the mysterious figure of the one who disappears, who leaves the territory where he was born, who builds a new life, far from Cayenne without ever returning . When I meet Lasseindra Ninja, I understand that this departure, this exile, is not just a flight, but rather a quest. The search for a place where it would be possible to be oneself, without crumbling under the social pressure linked to gender assignments. But how to return when we have moved so far away from the part of ourselves that we left behind ?
I quickly proposed to Lasseindra to be the main character of the film. But after some meetings, the idea of making a fiction has become vain. The character I had imagined was already there in front of me. She had not been in French Guiana for more than ten years, but accepted to go back there for shooting the movie. I threw the initial script, and we started Fabulous.

SHOOTING :

We shot the film in a diffuse tension related to the nature of the project. Implementing voguing in Cayenne has a subversive dimension, so much the values advocated by this culture are the antithesis of the prevailing precepts in French Guiana. Add to that a tension on anything that touches the LGBTQIA + community and the climate of high violence, and you get a potentially explosive cocktail. We thus had a responsibility towards the students and Lasseindra. It was therefore imperative to create safe spaces for the masterclass and the ball. That’s why most of the film was shot indoors, in places that we could control, with persons we knew. So we worked in the shadows.
This tension related to the threat from the outside sneaks into the masterclass. Into Lasseindra also, in its hardness and its relentlessness to transmit the voguing. And among the students who, although destabilized, felt that something vital was being played out at that time. An injunction to go and find what is deep inside them and make it manifest. A precious path for young dancers.

VOGUING :

Voguing is a dance which was born in the 80s in New York, in the LGBTQIA +, Afro and Latin American communities. The dancers meet at «balls» to compete in the context of «battles». Lasseindra set up the voguing in Paris, with the «Paris ballroom scene», with her «mother» Steffy, about ten years ago.
The voguers are subdivided into groups called «houses» (Ninja, Mizrahi, Balenciaga, Khan, etc.) headed by a «mother» who watches over his «kids», who may be at odds with their family because of their sexual orientation or their way of living the genre. The house becomes their second family. The voguing is not only a dance, but also a community, or even a culture, with a way of life and a relationship to the specific world. Although voguing is a highly codified and highly technical dance. What is important is the power with which the dancers manage to manifest their singularities, what Lasseindra calls «the aura». The voguing is an introspective movement that forces the dancers to go deep into themselves.
I spent several years doing research on Guianese dancers, without ever hearing about Lasseindra. It was by chance, during a conversation on a film set, that one of her friends told me about her. I knew the voguing, through the movie Paris is burning, but I had no idea of the vivacity of this scene in Paris. I attended her classes, first as a watcher, then as a student. I was able to experience the way this martial fervor hardens the body but especially the mind. You do not leave a voguing class the same way you entered it.
Voguing is a state of mind based on assertiveness and self-confidence. Forcing one’s body to walk proudly gives the strength and the courage to do so in the street. The effects of voguing are not limited to the ballroom, they are diffused in all the parts of the life of those who practice it. It is a global experience that helps to face the outside world.

BEING GAY IN GUIANA :

In Guyanese Creole, the only word for male homosexuality is «makoumè», which means «fagot». This term is one of the most violent and humiliating insults that can be addressed to a man, regardless of his sexual orientation. The isolation of the territory generating what Lasseindra calls «the village effect», everyone knows everyone and anonymity does not exist. Where in metropolitan France, it is possible to reinvent themselves elsewhere by moving to another city, to find places where the LGBTQIA + community meets, in French Guiana, none of that. It is usually stuck in high school. If you are lucky enough to have a family that can financially support your studies in metropolitan France, or if you get a scholarship, you can see a possibility of exit. Without it, you better be strong enough to deploy physical and psychological protection strategies if you decide not to live in the shadows anymore. This is the case of the young people with whom I had the chance to work, especially Jordi, Victor and Philippe.
Thanks to dance, they found a place where it is possible to live their masculinity differently. Like Lasseindra, they were able to free themselves from the heavy image of masculinity in French Guiana, based on the permanent demonstration of an exacerbated masculinity. This gave them the strength to accept themselves and others. The dance, thus becoming a vital decompression valve, has sealed a powerful friendship among young people, linked to this common experience of the territory. Friendship that goes beyond the frame of the dance, since they help each other, protect and defend each other when necessary. This is not the case for young people who would be isolated.
The young people of Fabulous certainly do, but it would be more accurate to say that they adapt their behavior, their way of being, according to the context, the people and the place. Having all experienced verbal and physical violence related to their sexual orientation, they are still driven by a strong desire to live their lives as they see fit. Sometimes to take risks by defying the taboos and put these taboos away.