Shakedown Documentary Transgresses Labels & Documents Underground LA Club Scene

 Still from  Shakedown

Still from Shakedown

The weather lately indicates that summer may come early and once again things are heating up in the A! Attempting to move past our woes in politics and entertainment alike, the party must keep going. Queer culture is continuously making strides, even in moments of duress. As part of a summer film screening series, Bodies On Display and MORPH have joined forces for the Atlanta premiere of Shakedown—a film by Leilah Weinraub showing at Midtown Art Cinema, in a one night only Midnight Screening on May 25.

Most notably known as CEO of the on-hiatus fashion brand Hood By Air, Weinraub has been tinkering in another medium: film-making. Shakedown is the culmination of 400+ hours of behind the scenes footage, interviews, and on site performances of black lesbian strippers after the turn of the millennium in the L.A. underground club scene. It’s an important document of a time long lost, yet specifically relevant to the issues we face today as capitalism continues to grin it’s pearly teeth.

The film is a subjective view of the interpersonal relationships between the creators and the performers of a successful party run by Ronnie-Ron. It doesn’t hold back on the explicitness of dancing nude for money. Shakedown threads a needle between the art of drag and the intensity of performance as labor. There are moments of fantasy, illusion, realness, and quite honestly the horrors of life. The personalities portrayed in the doc present varying degrees of the gender spectrum, from masculine to feminine sprinkled with studs and hyperfemme goddesses. A beautiful prospect of the club night is the celebration of sexuality, notably bisexuality, as several party goers muse. There is a necessity to showing this lifestyle in images in a time when the need for them is critical, but Shakedown possesses something more significant—liberation.

 Courtesy of Leilah Weinraub

Courtesy of Leilah Weinraub

One of the most affecting laws of the current administration's agenda (there’s more than one) is SESTA/FOSTA, a series of bills that attack customs pertaining to the use of the internet by aiming to censor sex related formats. The bills’ stance reverberate to contemporary sex work which depend on verification processes that were previously unavailable. The serious effects of these changes have yet to transpire so there is still hope for protection of sex workers from threats to their livelihood. As Shakedown depicts the struggles that strippers face, it seems timely that its arrival comes at a moment when censorship runs amok. The fixation on control of womyn’s bodies is still something that must be derailed head on.

In a city that is known for its strip clubs and not so progressive ideas of queer identities, this film is highly topical. The glitz and glamour of neon lights and pouring cash should enable the community to demand more—it’s only just begun. So please join us for a night of ecstasy with real life implications!

*There will be a post screening discussion reserved for those who wish to participate.

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Bodies On Display is a curatorial project on Gender and Sexuality in Visual Culture. It aims to highlight the intersections between erotic art, pornography, fetish, and performance. The next screening will be Bruce LaBruce’s The Misandrists playing June 15, 2018 at The Plaza Theater.

MORPH is the Atlanta club night that has become one of those safe spaces against both bigotry and by-the-numbers club music. Their next event is May 16, 2018 at Soundtable.