After one year of hard work, the documentary The Real Housewives of Neukölln, is ready to be seen. The documentary is the last piece of THEM, an independent film production which aims to push the boundaries in a cisgender, mainstream system, too closed for diversity. THEM is the love of the other, the desire to share each and everyone’s singularity. Directed by Joséphine Page and Réda Ait, the documentary follows Collapsella, Cheryl Nobyl, Fanny Crackwhore, Ash Traylia and Ida Entity; the 5 former artists of a drag show that took place in a queer bar in Berlin.
The 30 minute movie is so much more that just a portrait of an artist. The Real Housewives of Neukölln is about visions, personalities, questioning gender identity, drag queen definitions and re-invention. I had the chance to go a little bit deeper in the subject with directors Joséphine Page and Réda Ait. The documentary will be premiered at the Lichtblick Kino, Saturday 12th August.
KALTLBUT: Ok, first thing first: How did you both meet? And how did the project The real housewives of Neukölln started?
Réda: We met in the club I was working when I arrived in Berlin, Farbfernseher. We had a friend in common who introduced us and that was at a the time I was looking for a partner to join me for THEM’s next documentary. I directly asked her and she was really enthusiast. We had dinner and the next friday we were already shooting. As for the Housewives, I met them in a party and everything started really naturally.
Josephine: We had friends in common, so we rapidly met when I moved here. Then everything went fast, we immediately match and we were quite happy to have found each other, because we were both passionate and looking for collaboration. Then on the second time we met I remember he told me about The Housewives that he met in a party. The week after, we were together with our cameras filming at the CLUB without really knowing what was gonna happen after.
KALTBLUT: You’ve been following these incredible people for almost a year. I can’t imagine how much material you might have produced. How did you cut it down to a 40 min movie?
Réda: It’s an intense and hard process. Directing a documentary is a human experience, before all, so you need to stay honnest to the essence of your intuition : the feeling that made you start the project and what people accept to give you. From there, you need to find a way to harmonize elements together to stay true to your perception of the situation without losing the essence of it. I was really ready to capture everything that was happening- and was trying to give a chance to the unexpected to happen. This is where the freedom expresses itself. Because, the director and the editor are two different role and we had to be both… And the hardest is not really doing it, the hardest is to believe that you are making the good choice and that you are able to do it.
Joséphine: Step by step we got rid of all the remarks that did not partake in the general problematic. We tried different options in terms of structure, and decided to create some kind of dialectic. So it was interesting to create a coherency between all the interviews that we made separately, and especially because the five protagonist have different conceptions of drag performance.
KALTBLUT: What was the most difficult part about the project?
Réda: When you start editing a documentary, you never know where you’re going to end up, it’s litterally a process. And of course, it’s stimulating but also very scary. We had hours of footage and the same amount for the interviews (45min conversation/queen, more or less) – and it was so rich. We could have done everything. And that is exactly what makes this job amazing, the power of choice and the unknown ! But, of course, we needed to focus on the main purpose that made us start this documentary and from there, we builded the general idea of the documentary. There was so much to film that we wanted to catch everything all the time, even if we knew that not everything was going to be useful. Those footage were the seed of our project. At the end, you are as much surprised as the others, and that’s amazing.
Joséphine: We had to make hard choice sometimes, we ended up deleting some very interesting part of the interviews.
KALTBLUT: Your agency, THEM, is related to queer documentary. What was your idea when you first created THEM?
Réda: I created THEM when I was still studying at Luc Besson’s school. We had to use the documentary language to portray someone that inspires us. It was just after I attended my first drag-queen show in Paris, at the famous club called « Concorde Atlantique » (where I actually shooted my last fiction, SALAMBO). I was just fascinated. And my idea was to simply share that feeling to others, to show how creative and amazing were those people. Whatever they were, not only drag, as long as they were breaking the sexual standards and questionning the social influence of their body on others. That’s what made me want to create THEM, powerful and unique personnalities who needed to express themselves, I wanted to be part of it, with my language.
KALTBLUT: Why do you think it is so important to showcase more non conformist gender free movies?
Réda: I’m really fascinated and stimulated by working with the so-called « non-conformist » communities, using cinema as a medium to connect people together, trying to create a new conformism where difference is not anymore something that put people apart. I’m trying to make people more conscious about that kind of questions and show that it’s just a natural pulsion. It’s a reality that everyone needs to accept and face at some point. So that’s why it is so important for me because cinema is the language of emotions and everyone understands emotions, better than words, because you can’t really control emotions.
Joséphine: Because I want to watch movies or documentaries that show me daring characters. We had the chance to meet these performers that use the stage to express their ideas through jokes and comedy. They are simply themselves, and we think their authenticity might touch people with more conventional mentalities. We believe that portraying characters like this will slowly change our binary ways of thinking.
KALTBLUT: How did you both end up making movies?
Réda: I’ve been casted once by a Turkish production. It was to shoot a short movie where I was suppose to play « the boyfriend », in Izmir, which is really funny when you know me. I went there and the only thing I remember is that I was incredibly bad at this and that I just wanted to be part of the technical team – so I started to film friends on the street, at age 15 and later, I entered a theorical cinema studies before going to Luc Besson’s school, where I learnt everything.
Joséphine: I just started this year, since I moved to Berlin. This documentary is my first big project. Before I was studying literature and film studies for four years.
KALTBLUT: How did you both landed in Berlin ?
Réda: It’s pretty classic. I’m only 22, I needed to be independant and I started to be bored in Paris, I was not surprised anymore by what was happening there. I needed to make new experiences and I have heard that Berlin queer scene was incredible, I wanted to be part of it or at least close to it ; to be able to see what was really happening. I booked a ticket and I was in Berlin the next day. I met the Housewives three weeks later and everything started.
Joséphine: I lived one year in England, but I felt it was not the right place for me. Then, people started to tell me about Berlin, and how much it would be nice for me creatively and personally. I believe in them and took the decision of coming here without even knowing the city.
KALTBLUT: Could you maybe tell us a funny / strong / story that happened during the making of The real Housewives of Neukölln?
Joséphine: At the very beginning when Jake (Cheryl Nobyl) told us about the first time he “performed » in drag at the prom bal of his highschool. It was so genuinely beautiful, I was feeling like watching an 90’s high school movie mixed with more progressive and modern ideals. I was thinking one day I want to shoot this story.
KALTBLUT: On a personal level, what did you take out of this experience?
Réda: There will always be this strong human part in any project you make, especially when you are making a documentary, it is more central than anything else. This documentary obviously teached me a lot about myself, and gave me a lot of confidence and changed something in me, in the good way.
Joséphine: I know now what it is to co-direct with someone. It was interesting because Réda and me have two different ways of working, and two completely different personalities but we kind of completed each other for this project.
KALTBLUT: What is your ultimate goal?
Réda: My ultimate goal ? To be able to live my life just doing this kind of project. The kind of project that brings together travelling and amazing encounters. Something that will always surprise me, teach me and stimulates me and my camera.
Joséphine: Make films as long as I am able to do so.
WHAT: The real Housewives of Neukölln, the documentary
WHEN: 12th of August 2017, 20h30 and 21h30
WHERE: Lichtblick Kino, Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin