A review of an essential "coming to queer" film
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are stills of “Lucid Noon Sunset Blush” and appear courtesy of Alli Logout.
In the summer of 2013, I lost my job at a yuppie craft ice cream shop and sold my guitar, fancy uke, and my DSLR to make rent. I was living in warehouse in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia and, despite living with two gay men, I still felt like a pariah being a baby punk queer Latina. I lived in an incompletely built room with the small circle-A drawn my door and a wall filled with zines, screenprinted posters by Katrina Clark, photographs by Elle Perez, and a large charcoal drawing of Goya. I spent my days listening to punk, R&B and blues tapes from my tape deck. When I realized I wouldn’t have enough money for next month’s rent, I was promised a small corner of a studio apartment West Philadelphia. When that fell through, I found myself on the porch of Sass Squat.
Sass Squat existed for 8 years, housing majority QPOC femmes, gender non-conforming folks and queerdo travelers. It was my home for 9 months before we got evicted in May 2014, and I still thrive with the support system that was created in that time. Upon watching Alli Logout’s film Lucid Noon Sunset Blush at the 2015 MIX NYC – NY Queer Experimental Film Festival, I couldn’t help but to relive the journey of living at Sass Squat. The film’s “coming-to-queer” narrative, focusing on Black and Brown femmes, presented a representation I had hardly ever experienced as a film goer. It follows the protagonist Micha as she is introduced to the lives of QPOCS in Texas who hold space for her for the very first time in her life.
“Look baby I’m just going to be real with you, come here” says Heart Throb, the House Mother, in the film’s opening scene. “Baby gays just like you, are always coming up in here ‘house me’, ‘feed me’, ‘fuck me’, ‘please Throb’- it’s exhausting! This ain’t a charity, you feel me.”
Lucid Moon Sunset Blush takes place in the thick of Texas, focusing on the effects of small towns on queers and the shifts that take place when they move to larger cities. Houses, collectives, squats, punkish houses and informal structures become spaces of growth and care that our families, towns, and schools couldn’t extend to us. The opening scene is the initiation of Micha into the House. House Mother “Heart Throb” sits on her futon throne as she’s lit with flush pink lighting, surrounded by signs that read “Femme Supremacy,” “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Black Women Matter.” Around her is a symmetric display of televisions, large speakers, and two Money Lovers counting money. Throb expresses tough love, yet promises care and compassion for Micha, who was just abandoned by her family for watching lesbian movies on Netflix.
A common white queer trajectory in Texas, as described by Alli, is for one to realize their unacceptable identity in their small towns and then move to the nearest bigger city (e.g. Houston, Austin, San Antonio). However, these larger cities are still hot beds of racism, faux-liberals, and otherwise ignorant folks that leave Black and Brown queers in a state of risk. Unlike New York City, or places like the Bay Area where queer safety overlaps public concern, Southern queers exists in small enclaves. For them, being within arm’s reach of a queer support system is a matter of life or death. Micha’s joining the House is, in Alli’s words, “showing the feeling that you aren’t going to die anymore.”
Lucid Noon Sunset Blush also lays out how moving into radical queer spaces is a turning point for so many young folks. With the knowledge of how to survive within capitalism comes the awakening of ideas of queerness, gender, feminism, and sex work. It also comes with the ability to reclaim one’s body that society believes is disposable. “When you first learn about these things, you think ‘Fuck, I’ve been living this horrible life. I’ve been a child that no one cares about,’” Alli explains. “There was little things that I’ve always known but didn’t have words for, nor encouraged to have the words for. Also, to most importantly think for myself.”
The scene following Micha’s arrival shows Dolly – acted by Alli herself – walking in sync with the song “Blissful Myth” by Rudimentary Peni as she exits the House. The camera first shows her pleather top, then jumps to her skirt, and then reveals she’s holding stilettos. Next we see a close-up of her face, complete with cut crease eye make up and unapologetic fierceness. Before she enters the bikeshop/dungeon basement, a white man pulls up and begins to exit his minivan. Dolly yells, “No! Get back in the car, cowboy!” hinting he’s most likely a John. The scene sets the pace for the rest of film, and makes it clear that Lucid Noon Sunset Blush is femme as fuck.
“There is not enough fem4fem,” Alli notes as I point out the overall breadth of femininity of the film. “It’s hard femme for hard femme, but when I say ‘femme,’ ‘hard’ is already implied. ‘Hard’ is implied in ‘femme.’” Femmephobia runs rampant within queer scenes, queer communities and even dating platforms. Often it’s under the guise of respectability, which informs why sex workers often bear the brunt of such ignorance. Lucid Noon Sunset Blush, with its consistent hues of coral and rosy pinks, uses camp as an aesthetic to overwhelm the audiences with the limitlessness of femininity. We are introduced to their hustles, and are aware of the hardships the characters might face in “Bigger City,” TX, but the film focuses on the mundane treasures of the characters’ companionship and compassion.
Press-on nails became a fetish object throughout the film due to the cast’s ability to steal dozens of packs. “Did you ever have one of those press-on subs?…That why the dungeon always be smelling like acetone,” the character Nova says to V when they have just finished having sex and she is looking for a press on that fell off in V’s vagina. The humor of looking for the nail strengthens the casualness of the sex scene. Alli describes the scene as, “similar to everyday regular sex that I have, and I don’t want it to be the focal point. Rather, this is something that we do. We have bodies like this and this is something that we do.”
I wanted to write about Alli’s work based on that sex scene alone. Growing up a thick, curvy brown person, I was stripped of expressing what I felt passionate about, especially having desire for other women. Undoing body shame only began when I was able to define society’s efforts to associate fat bodies with undesirability, and to strip fat people of their desires. “I wanted to show the reality of sex and our sex and the sex that I have, and the bodies I fuck, or how I don’t see bodies like my own being fucked on screen,” Alli explains. “I wanted to focus on it afterwards, and have it be realistic. When you bang, then you talk, then you get up go on with your life.” As a film directed toward the experience of budding queers, this scene alone has dulled fears of undesirability and the ghosts of body shame that I’ve carried from my late teens. I still feel like a baby gay, but as we age we can’t help but to question if that feeling ever goes away.
The Affirmation Triology
“There is nothing hotter to me than femmes doing that ritual of pampering together. Doing themselves together and getting ready for the world in their body and looks”-Alli
Micha spends time with her new found queer family in the Texas sunset by the train tracks, and the film ends with the femmes enjoying a humid summer night in bliss. “I’m trying to talk to Southern baby gays. I’m trying to reach anybody who has ever felt that feeling of finally finding your people. That’s is who I’m trying to talk to” says Alli. Narratives of baby gays experiencing isolation in the American South, before then finding solace, is propelling Alli to create what she calls “The Affirmation Trilogy.”
Alli’s previous film, “Digital Affirmation,” is part of the trilogy. It’s a story of a queer young girl in the year 2012 in a southern small town. Due to always feeling the world is always ending around her, the protagonist has a desire for the world to end as foretold by 2012 myths. One night at a gas station she works at, she gets noticed by two other queers, who subtlety introduce to her to an alternative to her time and place. Being read as queer is a frightening experience for her, yet she begins to feel less invisible.
“Everyday I’m like,‘thank god I’m gay and not straight.’ Thank god, I didn’t stay in my home town, marry the first guy that comes in my world and have a baby,” Allie explains. “Southern sexuality is different because it’s like so taboo. It feels really freaky, yet there is so much care within that. Even with random hook-ups, it’s exciting every time. I’m just happy to be alive and be able to share my story right now. I just came out of a really intense depression as a kid, growing up in my small town and nobody understanding anything about me. Coming from a place of having to hide who I am and being scared all the time for my life. I mean, I still feel it. I’m always on edge since I’m still in the South. I’m still nervous all the time. But when I’m with my people, I feel so chill and so free.”
When thinking about the future of coming-to-queer, and QPOC film narratives, I can’t help but to feel hopeful for what is to come. Lucid Noon Sunset Blush, alongside independent films such as Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari, puts trite ideas that queers solely experience tragedy to rest. At MIX NYC, Lucid Noon Sunset Blush screening was sold out, yet Alli herself snuck in QTPOC for free into the screening, because it’s about our kinship. It’s a crucial time to support films, filmmakers, and the like who are showing our nuanced, non-comforming, frisky lives on the big screen.