Check It

F  i  l  m
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I T ' S  N O T  W H A T  A  M O V I E  I S  A B O U T ,  I T ' S  H O W  I T  I S  A B O UT  I T

"At first glance, they seem unlikely gang-bangers. Some of the boys wear lipstick and mascara, some stilettos. They carry Louis Vuitton bags, but they also carry knives, brass knuckles and mace. As vulnerable gay and transgender youth, they’ve been shot, stabbed, and raped. Once victims, they’ve now turned the tables, beating people into comas and stabbing enemies with ice picks. Started in 2009 by a group of bullied 9th graders, today these 14-22 year old gang members all have rap sheets riddled with assault, armed robbery, and drug dealing charges. Led by an ex-convict named Mo, Check It members are now creating their own clothing label, putting on fashion shows and working stints as runway models. But breaking the cycle of poverty and violence they’ve grown up in is a daunting task. Life for the Check It can be brutal, but – it’s also full of hope and an indomitable resilience. At its heart, CHECK IT explores the undying friendship that exists between these kids – an unbreakable bond that is tested every day as they fight to stand up for who they are in a community relentlessly trying to beat them down."

As I mentioned in my review of BFI Flare short Wood, I keep hearing how gay films are all the same. And whilst I couldn't disagree more, real disruptors are rare. Check It is a disruptor. Or, put another way, Check It is an answer to the danger of the single story.

You want different? This is the story - the true story - of a LGBT "gang" who decided to fight back. Skittles (pictured below) might pose and prance, but look at him the wrong way and he'll knock you out. And he will knock you out.

But this is no superhero fantasy. Often, gay cinema shows us the tragic aftermath of homophobic bullying and parental rejection - murder, suicide - as dramatic bookends, but Check It shows us the daily slog of LGBT youth surviving by any means necessary. Surviving, but not thriving.

Filmmakers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer followed the gang for six years to make their film, but it sometimes feels like we're only seeing part of the picture. It's not without its problems. Flor and Oppenheimer give air time to statements that are homophobic and transphobic. That these views go unchallenged seems, to me, representative of the world. This is what the Check It live with. It is they, and they alone, who challenge these views. Passively observing as an audience makes us complicit, reinforcing the fact these most marginalised of people are on their own. But black and trans author and activist Kuchenga sees things differently, and has branded the film "torture porn."

Going back to the danger of a single story, although Check It disrupts the usual narrative we see in gay film, there's an elephant in the room. A white elephant, you might say. As Kuchenga says, "We have to empower trans and queer people of color to make and tell our own stories in order for our objectification to not be so cheap."

It's a minefield, and you can't talk about a film like Check It without also talking about objectification and exploitation. So do see this important, powerful film, but read what black voices have to say about it, too.

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Tyler Jenkins said...

Is it good?

KAOS said...

Yes! It's so good!

Tyler Jenkins said...

Should I watch it?

KAOS said...


Prince Royce Worthington said...

Check it was so good! But so sad simultaneously.

KAOS said...

Crushing so hard on Skittles...

Prince Royce Worthington said...

He is cute! When he relinquishes his drag and is just in the ring boxing I'm like... 😍😜😘

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