Monday, November 20, 2023

Reverend’s Interview: Now Saving the Universe: Captain Faggotron!

The world is one big hot mess right now. Wars, pandemics, government dysfunction, natural disasters and increased animosity toward the LGBTQ+ community are taking a toll. We could use a hero, but Superman, Flash Gordon and Wonder Woman are apparently otherwise occupied. Who can we turn to in our time of need???

Enter the fantastic Captain Faggotron! The brainchild of filmmaker Harvey Rabbit, this new superhero for our community will be making his home video debut on November 21st courtesy of TLA Releasing. A low-budget but big-hearted and very creative movie, it wowed audiences earlier this year at numerous LGBTQ+ film festivals worldwide.

Captain Faggotron Saves the Universe is a campy comedy-fantasy about internalized homophobia, the tyranny of the closet, and fear of a gay planet. It was conceived by Rabbit as a direct (though admittedly absurd) response to multiple situations: the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; the persecution of homosexuality in Chechnya, Russia; the election of President Donald Trump in the USA; and the violence that unfortunately follows gay and queer people of all genders throughout our lives.

When Father Gaylord, a closeted Catholic priest living in Germany, loses his precious ring, he is forced to turn to Captain Faggotron for help. It turns out that the missing ring is no ordinary piece of jewelry. It is the mystical Ring of Oberon, which has the power to turn the entire population of Earth gay. Whereas Fr. Gaylord is horrified at this prospect, his nemesis/sometimes lover Queen Bitch excitedly declares “Soon, the world will be flooded with homosexuals!” Cue the maniacal laughter.

This movie truly has something for everyone: religion, furries, men used as footrests, sex demons, animated sequences, MAGA hats, full-frontal nudity, a song about Grindr and — naturally, in light of its German setting — sausages. The title character even gets his own theme song and a dance number! As Queen Bitch queries Fr. Gaylord at one point, “Why be normal when you can be extraordinarily fabulous?”

According to the film’s website: “Captain Faggotron Saves the Universe follows a tradition deeply rooted in gay/queer history and our ability to survive. Confronting ‘straight’ and heteronormative structures, camp exposes absurdities of the mainstream in a way that allows us to laugh. Humor is a weapon, and camp is a tool of joyful resistance.”

Harvey Rabbit, the film’s writer-director, is a transgender artist living in Berlin, Germany. He has a Master’s degree in dramaturgy and a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Theater, both from New College of California. A campaigner for LGBTQIA* and sex worker rights, his activism dates back to the mid-1990’s. Using spoken word as his medium, Rabbit stormed the stages of Northern California, speaking about feminism, queerness and empowerment.

From 2013 to 2015, he produced, curated and hosted Varieté Ridiculous, a political cabaret in Berlin focusing on sex worker rights. Rabbit’s first short film, Slowdance, premiered at the 2016 Berlin Porn Film Festival and has been shown in queer film festivals in many parts of Europe, South and Central America, and the USA. In 2017, he produced We are the Fucking World, a short film for Erika Lust. Rabbit’s most recent work, The Chemo Darkroom (2018), was selected for the shorts competition in the
Berlin Porn Film Festival, Berlin Feminist Film Week, IKFF Hamburg, and the 2019 Hacker Porn Film Festival in Rome. Captain Faggotron Saves the Universe is his first feature film.

The spirited filmmaker recently spoke with me via Zoom from his home in Berlin.

Harvey Rabbit

CC: Hi Harvey! Congratulations on making such a unique, creative film. What has been the response to it so far?
HR: Well, we just won an award! Bishop Black (who plays Queen Bitch) won the Iris Prize in Cardiff, Wales for Best Non-Binary Performance. Mostly, people are loving this film. We’ve played both LGBTQ and international film festivals. Heterosexuals are loving this film and I didn’t make it for them! I’m here to convert people. (laugh) I don’t mince words.

CC: How and when did you first conceive the story?
HR: After the Pulse shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Florida. I went into a state of shock and didn’t want to leave my apartment. Then one day, the first 12 pages of the script just kind of came out of me.

CC: This is your first feature film, correct? What were some of the challenges you faced?
HR: Yes. It’s a 72-minute film and the entirety of our budget was 20,000 Euro (approximately $21,200 US). We also had two COVID lockdowns in Germany that postponed everything. We shot basically every weekend from July through the end of October, 2020.

CC: Wow, it sounds like a true labor of love.
HR: No, it was a labor of compulsion. (laugh) I had to do this movie!

CC: Your movie has a fabulous queer cast! Did you use a formal casting process, or just cast friends or people you knew?
HR: The roles of Captain Faggotron and Queen Bitch were written specifically for the actors, Tchivett and Bishop Black. If they had said no, I couldn’t have done it. I knew Rodrigo Garcia Alves (who plays Fr. Gaylord) from the community and bumped into him on the street one day. He’s from Brazil and I thought, “Hmm, he could play the priest.” (laugh) For other roles we had auditions and readings, and everyone did it for no money. Everyone involved was gay, trans or queer, with the exception of a cis-ish member of the core creative team.

CC: Talk to me about the religious content in the movie. Are you or were you Catholic?
HR: I’m Jewish. This is not my baggage. (laugh) I really don’t know where Fr. Gaylord came from. I knew someone Catholic who thought of becoming a priest but he was really closeted. My best friend as a teenager was Catholic. We were really bad. I would spend Saturday nights at her house and we would sneak out to go party. We would get back early Sunday morning and I would sometimes go to church with her family, like two hours later. I liked the music but was not religious so hated being there. I wish a Catholic priest would come out publicly. “Just come out,” as Harvey Milk said. My movie is a fantasia on religious and gay themes but I would love it if it inspired more openness.

CC: That would be awesome. What’s next for you?
HR: I’m looking for funding to write my new script, Cancer Made Me Trans. It also has comedy and fantasy elements like Captain Faggotron, and I’ll leave it at that.

CC: I can’t wait! Well, I wish you the best and much continued success.
HR: Thank you so much!

For more information about the movie, visit TLA Releasing.

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.