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.