BFI Flare 2018: Alaska Is A Drag

B F I  F L A R E
L o n d o n  L G B T  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 8

"The world of boxing, drag and fishing might have little to do with each other. But they are delightfully merged in the adorable character of Leo, a young black queer kid growing up in a trailer with a fabulous sister and evangelist father. His mother fled to the big city years ago, reportedly becoming a hairdresser to the stars. Leo plans to use his skills as a gender chameleon to train as both a boxer and a drag act in the hope that one will bring him success. But then strange and hunky Declan shows up. This fun debut is perfect for those who know what it means to be young and are searching for a way out."

For Leo (Martin L. Washington Jr.), life in an Alaskan backwater ain't a lot of fun... He should really get together with fellow Flare protagonists Marcos (Marilyn), and Pedro (Hard Paint).

Alaska Is A Drag has had a long gestation. Followers of star Martin L. Washington Jr. will have been aware of the project for several years, before it finally appeared in 2012 as a delightful, surprising short film (available on Boys On Film 11).

The full length feature has been in the works since then, attracting an impressive battery of stars (Jason Scott Lee, Margaret Cho, Matt Dallas) to its arsenal. So does it work?

Mostly. The big names might guarantee a few more ticket sales, but the real star here is Washington himself. This is his story, and were he not so watchable, the film would be in serious trouble.

Correction: this was his story. Perhaps feeling that the expanded running time means more plot, or that all those stars need something to do, Leo's story has become just one part of a rather cluttered narrative. He's the most interesting thing in the movie, and ends up getting a little lost in all this... stuff. I didn't see Matt Dallas in Kyle XY, but he seems permanently stoned in Alaska. And although Scott Lee is good value, Cho might as well not have been there.

You can't fault it for ambition, but Washington could (and deserved to) have carried this film on his own, without all the distractions.

Every year, KAOS reports from the annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. This year, I'll be reviewing seven films. 

Next time: Postcards From London


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