Some of us who saw Go Fish during the original
cinema release were glued to our seats for 85 minutes. It was
an amazing piece of cinema, not because of how it was executed,
but the mere fact that it was achieved. This was the film that
made later high profile films like Bound possible. It proved that
the world was ready to see lesbians on film in more than just
Seeing the film now gives me a completely different feeling.
It's now a nostalgic experience. It was a grass roots effort that
came not just from the minds of Guinevere Turner and Rose Troche,
but from the hearts and wallets of the Chicago dyke community
in which they lived. Everyone on that film pretty much had a real
job. Migdalia Melendez (Evy) had three. It was a labour of love
and audiences loved it.
That being said, the film could be seen as having very little
to offer the dyke of today. What just a few years ago was revolutionary
in cinemas could now been seen as cliched and stereotyped. There's
a lot of butch-femme dichotomy which most lesbians today would
see as being outdated. There's a scene with dykes harassing a
lesbian for sleeping with a man that some have called persecutorial
and ridiculous, as if the condemnation of lesbians who sleep with
men never happens today. The acting is sub-standard (not one of
the performers was a trained or professional actor) and the ideas
expressed somewhat lacking in the political fire we've come to
expect from more recent lesbian film offerings.
That said, there is a line in this film that will always be one
of my favourites. Ely (V.S Brodie) comments that queer filmmakers
are expected to represent everyone in the gay community, to say
things that are true for all gays and lesbians, when all they
are really doing is showing what they see in our community. It
is a lot to ask for one filmmaker to say something that
reaches every lesbian who will ever watch this film. Despite the
hype this film has gotten over the years, you have to remember
that no film will ever do that.
I've seen 50 year old lesbians watch this film and call it indulgent
and crass. I've seen 18 year olds watch it who called it old and
unrepresentative (I mean, who makes films in black and white anymore?)
On the flip side, I've seen dykes of all ages watch and be just
as affected by it now as I was back then. I saw one woman get
so passionate about it that she shaved off her long hair the next
day (you have to watch it to understand the relevance of that).
I was 20 years old when I first saw Go Fish.
I had been out for two years and I lived in a small city where
what dyke community there was seemed limited. I walked into my
local art house cinema and watched this film at a fundraiser for
a local socialist political group. I was still pretty naive about
gay life, but I was (and still am) passionate about film.
Watching Go Fish was the first time I had ever seen that
side of myself on the big screen. It was the first time I felt
truly represented. I felt like sobbing, or clapping. It taught
me just how important it was to me to feel represented
in this medium I love so much. Go Fish began a love affair
I have with lesbian/queer cinema that will last my whole life.
It is difficult for first time viewers to see it in context with
the time in which it was made. In some ways gay cinema is like
information technology - if we were magically transported back
6 years and forced to live then with the knowledge we have now,
we would scream in frustration. Lesbian cinema has come a long
way in a short time (but certainly not far enough!), and we might
still be watching nothing but tortured coming out stories and
lesbian vampire films if it weren't for the vision of the women
who made this film and others like it.
Every lesbian should see this film, if only to make their own
judgements. I know that some of it leaves me shaking my head today,
especially the little arty flashes in between scenes that never
made any sense. There are also some parts that still make me smile
and nod, as if Guin Turner and Rose Troche had been speaking directly
to me and about my life.
It was never the technical prowess that made this film magical,
it was the love behind it. Like it or hate it, you can't deny
how important it was.
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