“Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?” hits LGBT film fests this summer

 
 

AE: In the film’s synopsis you write that your character Anna’s crush on Katia—the cerebral, somewhat bombastic, graduate student played by brilliantly by Janina Gavankar—paralyzes her “with fear of intimacy, rejection, and her own internalized homophobia.” I wonder, however, if Katia is not so much the catalyst as a mirror to Anna, who is attracted to Katia for the very reason that she represents an illusion, the very illusion that Anna sees in herself. There’s comfort in an illusory love, because people who chase after the illusion, or “the unattainable,” person intuitively know that they will fail, so they will never have to make themselves vulnerable. Would you say that Anna’s life, “of living an illusion,” is represented by this false muse? That Katia is a projection of Anna herself?

AMA: I didn’t think of Katia as a projection of Anna but she is! I really thought about it, and I said, ‘What attracts us to other people?’ A lot of these women I’ve always met have been intellectual. The idea that the illusion is really kind of the carrot: What gets you out of bed? What makes something worthwhile?

AE: She seems like such a block, though, but I feel like what what usually happens is that an individual who is unavailable picks someone who is equally unavailable—it reifies her narrative and keeps her comfortable in that narrative.

AMA: Absolutely. I think part of choosing the unattainable is not seeing what is really there. Anna is still projecting what isn’t really there. She’s still projecting on her. Everytime Katia talks Anna goes back into her head instead of listening to her. So, in a way, yeah—it’s not that Katia is unattainable, it’s Anna who makes Katia, Julia, Penelope, everyone unattainable. And I think when people really think about it, when people say “I always choose people who are unattainable,” it’s really about you not being—not giving other people a chance. Even more than hurting or isolating yourself. It’s really about you not giving yourself a chance to get to know someone.

AE: I love the deconstruction of the ideal of the muse in WAVW, because ideals are nothing less than illusions, Plato be damned! The humor here is so subtle it’s fantastic: “Katia Amour” translates into “Pure Love,” again the ideal, the illusion. Throughout the film we witness Anna experience moments of enchantment speckled with moments of disenchantment, particularly when Katia is spouting her rhetorically vapid, theoretical jargon. Why did you employ the trope of the muse in this film, and how does it work to expose Anna?

AMA: When we start the story Anna’s at the very bottom of the barrel, and so she doesn’t feel good about herself and she doesn’t believe in herself. So Katia is like a buoy in The Titanic, and I think that the testament about having a muse—the muse in itself and Anna choosing Katia as a muse—is not giving up. It’s a testament to Anna that this person gives her another reason to try again. Whether she’s a muse or not, she inspires her because Katia is exciting and beautiful and she cares. The muse is a testament that Anna still has hope no matter what. Again, when everything falls apart, one of the messages of the film is to inspire people not to give up.

The [relation of] artist and the muse is the difficult thing. There’s not a “real” relationship, even though you can have a muse as a lover, like Dali. Anna calls her a muse and sees her as a muse, but what she really turns out to be is a catalyst.

AE: Yes, because meeting Katia inspires Anna to make a movie. Another L Word alum in the film, in addition to Janina, is Guinevere Turner. Is it true you wrote the part of Penelope for her? Her parody of Elizabeth Taylor, who stars as Georgie in the film adaptation of Albee’s play, is hilarious. While I’m curious to know if Guin studied Lindsay Lohan’s portrayal of Taylor to achieve such heightened parody, I am more interested to know what it meant for you to have her as “iconic lesbian actress” play “iconic actress”?

AMA: The role of Penelope was written expressly for Guinevere. Guin was so instrumental in even making the movie happen. For me, she incarnates an old Hollywood glamour and finesse, and you feel it when she’s on the screen and [also] in person. I love older movies, so for me one of the reasons I wanted to do these movies (hopefully Baby Jane will be next), was so that people would get excited about the original play/film.

I love camp absolutely; I knew everyone was expecting an over-the-top “YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” [in one of the film’s earlier scenes], but she does an amazing job.

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AE: Yes! When she changes the tone from melodramatic to more serious and demure when replaying the scene, it really showcased her ability as an actress.

AMA: Exactly. Guinevere has an incredible range, and I hope to see her play this range more and more.

AE: WAVW screens at LGBT film festivals throughout the summer, including OutFest in LA and QFest in Philly. Are you hoping for a larger distribution after the festival circuit? What’s next for you?

AMA: I’m definitely going to QFest; we are a Saturday night Centerpiece on July 13th, [and] I’m so thrilled about the audience reaction so far. Then Outfest, which starts July 11th; the film plays July 19th at 7:30—for someone like me, with a history at Outfest, it’s a huge achievement.

During Outfest, too, I will be directing one of the screenwriters labs, which exists to help screenwriters get their scripts selected.

AE: So you’ll be helping nurture someone bring their project to fruition.

AMA: Yeah, and for me it’s a great opportunity to work with a screenwriter and bring something to life someone’s been working so hard on.

What brought me to America originally is what I’m hoping will be my next project, The Papaya Factory, a coming of age story of a 14-year-old Cuban-American girl set in Miami in 1984. It’s the time of pop culture and Miami Vice and Scarface and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. And everyone in the film doesn’t want to be who they are. It’s the “Me Generation.”

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AE: Which is interesting, because now everyone is saying that Millennials are the “Me Generation.”

AMA: But the origin of the “Me Generation” was in the ‘80s, which is why there was the backlash of grunge in the ‘90s. The ‘80s were so flashy and sparkly and pop, and so gender-bending.

WAVW is also in consideration for indie film festivals in Europe, and here in the States, too. I’m submitting [it] to a lot of the indie fests, because, as bell hooks says, if you want to be pertinent, you have to move between the center and the margin.

AE: WAVW is not a coming out narrative or a gay shame narrative. I think those films have a difficult time segueing into more mainstream communities. This is another why I loved WAVW too, because being a lesbian is just a facet of Anna’s story in the film.

AMA: I hope also that people appreciate and understand that she’s a Cuban-American raised with certain values, and a certain appreciation for America—hence I live my life that way. But I also want to cross over and hope that the “gatekeepers”—programmers, buyers, distributors, Judd Apatow—discovers me.

AE: Me too! I look forward to seeing you at QFest in Philly this weekend.

AMA: Yes, I’ll be there this weekend, with my vagina costume, of course.

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