“The film wasn’t my truth” admits Joey Lauren Adams, the lead actress from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, the Golden Globe nominated film about a man who falls in love with a lesbian. Except for Chasing Chasing Amy‘s Sav Rodgers, it’s entirely their truth.
Chasing Amy became their everything. An all-consuming identity they have obsessed over and fixated on, using the film to form their self-understanding and recognition.
Having previously led a TED Talk on the film, titled ‘The rom-com that saved my life’, there is power in Sav’s personal connection to how a questionable, and problematic romantic-comedy served as a saviour. In his documentary Sav tries to capture the all-encompassing comfort that Chasing Amy brought. Though at times this cinematic portrayal is clunky and mismanaged, at its centre is a deep affection between Rodgers and the film they have dedicated themselves to.
Split between talking head interviews of the crew behind Chasing Amy, including the director and cast, as well as moments of Rodgers exploring New Jersey with their now-wife Riley, the documentary begins as a celebration, a recollection of highlights, as if fulfilling a personal bucket list for the director.
However, to build a film on the success of another is a constant uphill battle, and is why Chasing Chasing Amy only finds its strength when it carves out its own path away from the controversially read film. In doing so, Rodgers’ documentary addresses the failings of representation of Kevin Smith’s rom-com, and in turn offers a reflexive stance on his identity within the LGTBQIA+ community.
Argued as being a poor depiction of lesbian relationships, Chasing Amy has been continually discussed as how, and if, it fits within the queer cinema canon, with its story fuelling bi-erasure, and offering a narrative to men that lesbians can be converted.
Moreover, within Rodgers’ breakdown of the production of Chasing Amy, an intriguing backstory emerges. Beginning with the intersection of Scott Mosier, the producer behind Kevin Smith’s previous work, Clerks, and the lesbian writer Guinevere Turner during their encounter at Sundance. Their connection, characterised curiously as “romantically platonic,” sheds light on a distinctively queer cinematic creation which deserves its own place of recognition, separate from the shadow cast by Chasing Amy.
Directed by Rose Troche, and written by Guinevere Turner, Go Fish Rodgers suggests deserves attention more as an integral part of the cinematic canon for lesbian film, and whilst Clerks subsequently led to Kevin Smith working with distributors Miramax owned by convicted producer Harvey Weinstein consequently leading to Chasing Amy, and thus Chasing Chasing Amy, it is Go Fish that offered an artistic presentation of the lesbian experience, even if since forgotten in favour of Smith’s oeuvre.
Or as better surmised by Turner when interviewed by Rodgers, “Kevin got an empire, but we were just some dykes.”
Rodgers also indicates that throughout the mid-90s, as shown by the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, the landscape for queer identity was mostly seen in smaller community pockets. And as such, the representation opportunities for closeted or queer individuals were limited in rural areas such as his home state of Kansas. So even if problematic, Chasing Amy offered an entrance to a world he could identify and understand.
Despite tackling the history of Chasing Amy‘s representation, with interviews of those within the LGBTQIA+ community, it is disappointing that the only instances where Rodgers includes interviews outside of industry experts, or crew from the film, are from those in attendance of Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, and all appear as cis-het presenting men, who speak fondly of Chasing Amy never once addressing its failings in representation.
Odder still, the most impressive sequence is instead between Rodgers and wife Riley, who take turns to interview each other within its final act, about how the film, its fascination, and Rodgers’ reflexivity has affected their relationship. The root cause of Kevin Smith’s documentary slips away, and their intimate exchange offers the truest representation that neither Smith or Troche could replicate.
Chasing Chasing Amy is screening as part of the programme for the BFI London Film Festival where it will have its UK premiere.
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