Team Queen at Cucalorus

by Leah Meyerhoff

Team Queen screens at the Cucalorus Film Festival
November 10 2006
Wilmington, NC

Cucalorus Film Festival logo

Screening with Shortbus directed by John Cameron Mitchell


Length: 102:00
Format: 35mm
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Cinematographer: Frank G. DeMarco
Producer: Howard Gertler, Tim Perell, John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus was swirling in controversy even before it went into production. An e-mail solicitation for performers prepared to engage in hardcore sexual activity was widely reported. And then Canada’s own Sook-Yin Lee almost got fired from her CBC Radio job for daring to join the cast. Finally, the Cannes Film Festival set it up as this year’s cause célèbre with a midnight slot and much nervous laughter. Shortbus is indeed packed with sex: all kinds of sex, graphically shown. It includes some acts that are familiar, some less so. But the film is not at all titillating. Sex serves as a guiding narrative device; it keeps the plot moving and reveals the intentions and fears of the multiple characters portrayed. Mitchell was clearly not just looking to make something that began and ended with its own controversy. Shortbus is in fact a film about a peculiar window of time, between the September 11 terrorist attacks and the great blackout of summer 2003. New York City found itself under threat, full of grieving tourists and being tossed around as a political football. New Yorkers, increasingly accustomed to the city’s gentrification and normalization, were shaken from their often cynical, anonymous existence. The result, contends Mitchell, was a sincere reconnection with the world, a pause button on irony that included the flowering of sexual possibility and fantasy. The blackout night was the epiphany for these explorations, when friendliness and frolic abounded. The story focuses primarily on two couples, one straight and one gay, and how their lives intersect with a few semi-lost souls. The various players end up at a weekly salon called Shortbus, hosted by drag legend Justin Bond. Through Bond’s eyes, they see the possibility of communing with like-minded folks about art, politics and, most importantly, sex. The characters’ various disappointments and blockages find a salve in this unique and necessary clinic. Shortbus, by the way, refers to the “special” school bus used for those outside the mainstream, from the physically challenged to the outrageously gifted. It is an apt title for a film that, in its very sincerity, stands vigil against all those who seek to exclude and demonize brave souls who dare to be different

cucalorus 2
Paul Dawson (SHORTBUS), Leah Meyerhoff (TEAM QUEEN)

*I had such a good time at this festival that it made it onto my Top 10 Film Festivals of All Time list*