Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Movies TOO Gay: The review for 'How Do I Look'

"This one is excellent and a must see."

The online movie review site Movies TOO Gay.com has published a review of the documentary, How Do I Look.

The site's movie critic was inspired by the "fast paced story" and the "interviews and scenes of Voguing."

"I can highly recommend this film," wrote Phillip Stiewert, the site's movie critic.

To read the complete review, please visit Movies TOO Gay.com and scroll down the page to the movie title, How Do I Look.


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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Online Forum Feedback to screening of 'How Do I Look' documentary

The online forum Walk For Me Wednesdays features a discussion topic about the special World AIDS Day screening of How Do I Look at the 15th Annual African Diaspora Film Festival. Members of the discussion board wrote about their reaction to the film screening. Here is an excerpt of what one member wrote:

The atmosphere was wonderful and I feel that the audience as well as my guests left with a positive attitude. Im glad that I didnt come alone.

To read the complete comment, as well as the other posts, please visit the discussion topic pages on Walk For Me Wednesdays.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"How Do I Look"

'Paris' revisited
Follow-up film returns to drag queen ball scene
New York Post
September 21, 2001

In 1990, a documentary about the outrageous and insular Harlem and Brooklyn drag ball scene, Paris is Burning, introduced the world to voguing, a little-known dance style that Madonna promptly parlayed into a full-fledged craze.

Now, more than a decade later, How Do I Look, a sequel of sorts that revisits many of the same places and personalities, is currently shooting in New York and is expected to be released for a theatrical run in 2002.

There's no telling what kind of influence the new film will have on pop culture, but there's no question Paris made its mark in many ways.

"You hear expressions from the ball community everywhere in our culture," notes Kevin Omni, the producer of Look. "You hear people say, 'You're fierce,' or 'You're tired, Ms. Thing' or 'You better work.'"

"It's influenced everything from the bright colors you see in urban fashion to the way people dance. The voguing that Madonna took from the ball world and mainstreamed began in jail in the '70s. It was something the jail queens started."

The ball scene is broken up into individual "houses" -- most named for famous designers, like the House of Prada or House of Chanel.

The most respected members are designated "Mother" or "Father" to the houses' "children." These close-knit crews often serve as substitute families for their young black and Hispanic gay and bisexual members.

The houses then participate in runway competitions in which members get to strut their stuff in full diva mode before judges for cash prizes.

Omni's House of Omni is one of the oldest houses, boasting chapters across the country. The 42-year old Omni spends much of his time these days trying to raise enough cash to finish Look.

"This is going to pick up where Paris Is Burning left off," says Omni. "The ball community is a world unto itself…. Many of the kids feel alienated and uncomfortable in school or trying to fit into the heterosexual world. That's when this community becomes their whole life.

"My ultimate goal is to open up possibilities for them."

That's why the filmmakers are an empowerment program. They want to help raise awareness and, they hope, grants for artists, designers and performers in the ball scene.

"We hope to be educational as well as entertaining with this film," says Wolfgang Busch, 45, a former promoter for Limelight, the Palladium and the Tunnel, who is making his directorial debut with the film.

"I think the whole scene is about to blow up. The buzz is going international."

Omni says he's now trying to enlist one of Harlem's most high-profile residents to lend a hand.

"I sent Bill Clinton an invitation to our press conference a few weeks ago, and he responded with a letter saying he couldn't make it but that he's interested in lending his support," says Omni. "I'm going to request a possible grant, but what I really want is for him to appear in the film."

Among the characters the new documentary profiles is Monica Xtravaganza, who recently took over the title of "Mother" of the high-profile House of Xtravaganza.

The 33-year-old pre-op transsexual, who lives in Hell's Kitchen, says she became involved with the project because she believes it will portray the scene more faithfully (and sympathetically) than did Paris, which was directed by documentary filmmaker Jennie Livingston.

"It makes a big difference that people who are involved in the scene are making this film," she says. "I think this movie will be more expressive and more real than the last one, which I felt was a little exploitative."

And Xtravaganza says she's not worried about the scene being co-opted (Madonna's song, "Vogue," hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1990) and watered down by exposure.

"I would like to see the heterosexual community learn more about the ball scene and about gay people in general. I'm not afraid of being mainstreamed -- you want to be more accepted."

For his part, Omni says he's determined to finish and release How Do I Look because he believes the ball scene didn't peak with Paris Is Burning.

"There's so much enthusiasm from everyone in the scene that you could hold these balls in a closet and nobody would care," he says. "It's like a huge fashion and talent audition where you can sing, dance, vogue -- anything you want.

"People have been holding costume balls for centuries. The ball scene is the continuation of that kind of tradition."

Special Note: For a link to an exact copy of this article, which was originally published by The New York Post in its Sunday edition on September 23, 2001, please visit: 'Paris' revisited.

How Do I Look is available on Amazon.com.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Selected Index of Movie Reviews for "How Do I Look"

Wolfgang Busch and “How Do I Look” in the news:

How Do I Look

The New York Times. Even as independent filmmaker Wolfgang Busch was working on completing his first documentary release, The New York Times was already taking notice of this important film. Here is an excerpt of The Times’s article about How Do I Look.

“Balls are now being staged almost every weekend in cities like St. Louis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington and Detroit. The House of Ultra-Omni alone has branches in 10 states. A dozen or more Web sites are devoted to the scene, which also has its own magazine and newsletter and is the subject of a new documentary that brings things vividly up to date. How Do I Look was filmed over the past decade by the German filmmaker Wolfgang Busch; fresh from making the rounds of an academic circuit still eager for tales from the gender front, the film will be released on DVD next month.” -- Excerpt from "Still Striking a Pose" by Guy Trebay from The New York Times

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"How Do I Look"
Directed by Wolfgang Busch

cover story
davidatlanta magazine
August 2007

You Look Fierce!

New DVD Updates Exposure for Gay Houses,
Ballroom Scene

By Ryan Lee

MORE THAN THREE DECADES AFTER IT BLOOMED in New York City -- launching successful artistic careers for several of its pioneers and infiltrating pop culture, fashion, music and dance -- the gay house and ballroom scene remains mysterious and underground to many people, gay and straight alike.

It's a menacing threat to some, as evidenced by the recent uproar where the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance sent out a newsletter calling the black gay houses that socialize at Piedmont Park on Sunday evenings "probably the most dangerous ongoing situation we have encountered so far."

MPSA members -- which includes some of the goons who help shut down Backstreet, Metro, et al. -- would undoubtedly be scared shitless listening to house member China Blue commenting about gay houses in the recently released DVD documentary, How Do I Look.

"A house is an organization more like a gang -- it's a gay gang," China Blue says.

But watching director Wolfgang Busch's 80-minute documentary, it's clear that while there's an element of hustling and shadiness within gay houses, the ballroom scene is much more than a gathering of gay gangs.

Black and Latino gay houses originated in New York when older gay men became surrogate "mothers" for gay youth who were rejected by their biological families. They evolved primarily into social and support groups, with houses competing against one another in balls for trophies, cash, and most importantly, reputation.

Often held in the wee hours of a weekend morning, balls are explosions of creativity and artistry, and jolting explorations of gender. House members turn up the adrenaline and fierceness as they compete in fashion, runway, voguing, make-up and gender illusion categories, feeding off the supportive energy of the crowd.

"You're like, wow, I just did something and got applauded and rewarded for it, and, you know, it's a wonderful feeling," says Jose Xtravaganza, a ballroom veteran who was discovered by a gay icon at age 15 and later had a breakthrough dance career. "That makes you feel really good, and feeling good -- it shows. There's a certain walk to your walk, there's a certain talk to your talk … you feel invincible, you feel strength and you feel everything that's good."

BIRTHED IN THE EARLY '70S, THE BALLROOM scene got upgraded exposure when none other than Madonna noticed Jose Xtravaganza and his house family members "dream writing" on the dance floor of New York's Sound Factory. Madonna tapped the House of Xtravaganza to perform in the fiercely iconic video for "Vogue," and Jose later went on tour with her.

"She would just play the music and watch me do my thing, and the next thing you know, she would want everyone to do what I was doing," Jose Xtravaganza says in "How Do I Look."

"It's a scene in "Truth or Dare" where she's just like kissing my feet, and I'm standing there like, "OK, I just have one of the biggest stars in the universe telling me how incredible I am and she's at my feet -- I think it should be the other way around," he says.

"How Do I Look" honors the origins of voguing before Madonna took it mainstream, and the documentary pays due homage to pioneers of the ballroom scene. It also shows the depth of accomplishment that gay houses regularly produce -- from choreographers and make-up artists, to Syracuse University students and an acclaimed photographer who also happens to be a stunningly gorgeous example of how beautiful life can be for people living with HIV/AIDS.

BUT HOUSES AND THE BALLROOM SCENE ARE not all glam. The documentary "Paris is Burning" is celebrated for first capturing the subculture in 1990, but shockingly, many of the film's notable characters are no longer alive.

"We've lost a wonderful world -- people with so much experience, talent and beauty," Carmen Xtravaganza says of the toll of HIV on the ballroom scene.

The loss and overall struggle that surrounds the ballroom scene and those who belong to houses makes the creative expression that thrives all the more remarkable.

"If only the world didn't have stereotypes or hang-ups around being LGBT, I could just imagine how much more beautiful this world would be with the creativeness that comes out of this subculture," Jazmine Givenchy Blahnik says on the DVD.