With its world premiere at FilmPride, director Isabella Walton speaks about her progressive short film, Izzy Aman: The Joy of Drag, exploring its approach to gender fluidity.
Izzy Aman, with all their thrusting, painting and gender nonconformity, is the Drag King act created by Isabel Adomakoh Young. In this candid short documentary, director Isabella Walton illuminates an area of drag often overlooked, drawing comparisons between art and identity using Izzy Aman as subject.
With its world premiere at FilmPride, a festival in Brighton & Hove dedicated to showcasing films about the LGBTQIA+ experience, Izzy Aman: The Joy of Drag sits with a unique perspective as a portrayal of drag kings and how a Queer black woman challenges the perceptions of masculinity, with part of her act donning the persona of celebrities including Prince, and Bob Ross.
Speaking exclusively to Cinamore, the multi-award-winning director opens up about her decision to explore Izzy’s persona: “The layers of a Queer black woman playing a white painter from the 70s then stripping down whilst exploring the physicality of different masculinities felt so nuanced and strong and had something to say that felt incredibly refreshing. As someone who fears their own masculinity, I was intrigued to learn more from someone who embraced theirs wholeheartedly.
“Also, there is nowhere near enough media coverage on how amazing drag kings are, so to show drag from an AFAB [Assigned Female at Birth] perspective, specifically a Black AFAB perspective, felt important.”
The film, compiled of intercutting gender fluid performances from Izzy Aman, is sandwiched between static interviews to camera from Young. Its contrasting shots offering poetic reflections of expression, whereby its motionless talking head interview restricts and confines, and yet, the performance continuously encourages the drag performer and their celebrity persona to treat the frame as an extension of their performance art.
“For me, the story completely comes together in the edit,” says Isabella, doubling up as director and editor, where her knowledge of shots conforming on the timeline reflects its tone and story.
“I ask all the questions, film all the things, and decide what the narrative is once I’ve got a lot of footage. This process is long and sometimes painful but feels the most organic and natural.
“I hate to go into a documentary shoot with strict rules of what the story is because it’s not my story to tell. I like to go with an open-flowing mindset and let the story revolve around the subject and what they’re doing/saying.
“Documentaries should feel real, so too much perfectionism and layers of visuals or sounds drowns out the humanity of the story.”
One specific sequence of the film illuminates its humanity, echoing its festival success. Izzy Aman, in drag, paints on her fake beard, completing the image of Bob Ross. Its soft focus and tight framing by cinematographer Olamide Shoyinka showcase the consideration and collaboration with the cast and crew. Each brush stroke from the performer metaphorically suggests that no matter how one fits concerning the last or the next, a happy accident completes her image, adding to the final piece that is her identity.
“With documentaries, I never go in with a shot list,” says Walton.
“I go in knowing what I want to film, but I like having the openness of deciding how we film it at the moment. We decided to do it handheld, so we could pan over Isabel and switch between close-ups, mid-shots and wides.
“I’ve always loved candid documentaries. I get bored of all the fluff, drama, and pretentiousness some documentaries possess nowadays. I like seeing a lot of pure interviews; I like simplicity, and I like things to feel conversational and personal.”
“It makes sense to me to focus on an individual even if your points are bigger statements about communities or points of view. Focusing on one person allows me to delve deeper and understand all parts of one human.”
Suppose Izzy Aman embodies the joy of drag. In that case, Isabella is the joy of giving voice to those unheard, something repeated from her award-winning short Golden Silence. Her development in spotlighting underrepresented areas should prove to be her calling card.
Izzy Aman: The Joy of Drag is screening as part of FilmPride, and forms part of Brighton and Hove’s Pride Festival arts screenings in on 6 August 2023 with We Are Fabuloso.
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