Director Gene Graham says film is not for anyone afraid of 'seeing a large black penis'
Update: This One's For The Ladies wins award at SXSW
In the middle of its world premiere at SXSW, publicists representing the documentary This One's For The Ladies announced it had just sold to Neon for worldwide distribution.
Gene Graham's documentary focuses on a weekly potluck fundraiser in a Garden State city that features the New Jersey Nasty Boyz, hot exotic dancers who know how to (a)rouse an audience. The stars of the film are not so much the performers as the women of color they entertain.
"Using male stripper events as a jump off, black, brown and allied women talk about sex, what they like and what they don’t like. They talk about sexual fluidity - some women enjoy lesbian 'dom' dancers entertaining in a 'straight' space," Graham explained in an email to Nonfictionfilm.com. "Unlike any other movie I’ve seen, This One’s For The Ladies is constantly looking at what women are looking at, what they find attractive, what they desire. We’re watching women looking at black male (and female) bodies for their pleasure. This movie isn’t shot from a straight (white) male gaze."
Slut shamers and body shamers will have a field day with This One’s For The Ladies. Holy rollers will throw the bible at this movie. And I suspect racists and some bourgeois black and brown people will take offense.
Graham hastens to add in reference to himself, "Okay, but wait - you’re a black gay male filmmaker. Doesn’t that inject some type of bias into the mix? Probably. But my concern isn’t with my desire - I know what turns me on. I’m more interested in trying to understand what’s going on for black, brown and allied women. Because I’ve never seen a movie that tackles this subject matter in a straightforward way, or gives voice to female desire. We’re always turning the camera in the direction of what the Ladies are looking at - to try to understand and represent."
One thing "the Ladies are looking at" are members of the Nasty Boyz, you might say.
"If you are easily offended by an honest discussion of female sexuality, seeing a large black penis, or by getting real about how racial disparities impact the lives of these Ladies outside of the club, then this is not the movie for you," the SXSW program guide proudly declares.
Update: This One's For The Ladies won a Special Jury Recognition for Best Cast as SXSW presented its awards Tuesday night. Director Gene Graham and producer Paul Rowley accepted.
"What emerges is an honest portrait of community and sisterhood. These Ladies and Men may not be the most perfect people you’ve seen on the screen, but they represent some of the same people who kept Roy Moore from becoming the next senator from Alabama," Graham noted in his email to Nonfictionfilm.com. "They’re real people and the movie reveals how we continue to make a kind of cultural lemonade out of the lemons American society hands us."
"Neon will be launching [This One's For The Ladies] worldwide," according to a statement announcing the company's acquisition of the documentary.
"I’m thrilled NEON saw the beauty in our Ladies and totally gets this movie," Graham said in the statement. "This One’s For The Ladies is for and about black women. It’s a celebration of their lives and their truth. I can’t wait to bring it to audiences everywhere.”
Though founded only a few years ago by Tom Quinn and Tim League, Neon has already made a mark in both fiction and nonfiction films.
In January at the Sundance Film Festival Neon acquired the documentary Three Identical Strangers. It has previously released the documentaries Risk by Laura Poitras and The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography by Errol Morris. In 2017 it released the fictional film I, Tonya, which earned multiple Oscar nominations. Co-star Allison Janney won the Academy Award for Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Tonya Harding's mother in the film.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.