Crystal Johnson aka Crystal Love in Black Divaz | Image source: imaginenative.org
Black Divaz dives into almost nearly uncharted territory, giving audiences a glimpse of what it’s like to be a drag queen in Indigenous Australia. Directed by Adrian Russell Wills, the film follows six contestants in their journeys to the inaugural Miss First Nations Pageant set in Darwin, Australia. Black Divaz made it’s Canadian debut at ImagineNATIVE on October 20, 2018.
“The team’s biggest hope in making this project was that [audiences] would walk away feeling fabulous and like they were able to have a conversation around drag and ‘sister girls’ – our transgender,” explained producer Gillian Moody while she was in Toronto for the screening. “We feel like, especially in the Indigenous communities, that it will open those doors and relax people so they can have those conversations in their own community.”
As soon as Wills heard that organizer and close friend, Ben Graetz aka Miss Ellaneous, was organizing the pageant, he contacted Graetz to work on it as a documentary. Moody describes Wills as someone who, “lives that world. He’s in it 24/7. He doesn’t pretend to be anyone else. For him, he just wanted to showcase black drag in Australia.”
Wills, who has also dabbled in drag before, has close ties to the community. One of the films strengths is the way it’s stylized, making it apparent that someone from within the community was able represent the drag community in a loving, culturally appropriate way. “Wills brought a creative vision to it. Not just having it being a straight forward documentary,” explained Moody. “But actually incorporating these visual, musical elements as well – as a style that was new and different for people.” Refusing to be victims of circumstance, the queens are showcased as empowered performers and trailblazers to the next generation.
Coming from gay and drag community, Wills was able to delve into all the complex issues that comes along with being a drag queen from a minority group. Audiences are given insight into some of the daily struggles the queens go through outside of performing, which include family issues, addictions, feelings of anxiety and loneliness, we are also shown the love in their lives and given insight into the strength and adversity that comes from overcoming trauma to be the fabulous divas they are meant to be. It’s because of this that Black Divaz is one of the most truly inspiring documentaries that I have seen this year.