Artist filmmaker and collaborator Campbell X is one of those badass queers I wish populated the world more frequently. The force behind BlackmanVision production company in the UK, she’s created a number of award winning film projects, blending fiction and documentary into her own successful brand of storytelling. Her films give voice to such niche communities as black women who participate in the dancehall music scene despite its misogynistic overtones, as in Ragga Gyal D’Bout!, or create a portrait of black lesbian love during the Harlem Renaissance as in BD Women.
This year, Campbell is wrapping up on her first narrative feature, Stud Life, which pays homage to the relationships between lesbians and gay men. She recently spoke with Queerious about her new film, the obstacles she’s faced and her advice on how to persevere.
When talking about the particular aesthetic of her films, Campbell understands the effect her perspective can have. “My films challenge minority communities out of their comfort zone,” she says. “Usually people get angry with me when they see my work or they cry. I always try to give visual pleasure through the use of colour and I steal from fashion, pop promos and old movies. I try to create a Black queer aesthetic which means I reject the white LGBT way of looking at Black LGBT culture in particular and Black culture in general. And that is a challenge because I am going against the grain in many ways.”
Her unique view of race and gender populates all of her work, and Stud Life is no different. The film’s logo — a stiletto high heel paired with high top sneaker — features the tag line “Who did you wake up with today? Your lover or your best friend?” Campbell explains her desire to illustrate the otherwise absent representation of lesbians and gay men as friends: “LGBT films tend to be mono-sexual … Boys with boys, girls with girls. It is not real life. Well, not my life anyway. I live and love in a mixed world of gender and race … Stud Life stars a dark-skinned stud and her white gay boyfriend who is comfortable with raw urban Black culture. These are two types of people one never sees in LGBT movies.”
Campbell also does an awesome job of calling out media that lacks the inclusion of queers and people of color, as evidenced by the 100 Film Power List on BlackmanVision’s site. A direct response to the whitewashed and ho-hum 100 Film Power List printed in the Guardian, Campbell’s list gives shout out to everyone from Rose Troche to Oprah to Jodie Foster, and even AfterEllen.com.
BlackmanVision also features such prize posts as her experience casting a genderqueer role in Stud Life, and the must-read Radical Film Manifesto, a list of advice for aspiring film makers (or anyone creative, really). “I, queers particularly of colour, need to get out there and make something, especially those that have skills,” she says in the interview. “Making films is easier but making great polished films is hard. However, the more you do it the better you will get. So I would encourage people to use whatever is at hand to make a film. Little ones and big ones. Narrative and experimental.”
It’s smart advice that has doubtlessly gotten Campbell X to where she is today, and then some. Stud Life is currently being shopped around to festivals, so there’s no word yet on when it will be available. You can catch clips of some of her films at BlackmanVision, and keep up to date with her projects through Facebook. Oh, and if someone doesn’t nominate Campbell X for Sinclair Sexsmith’s Top Hot Butches, I sure as heck will.