Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Audre's Revenge Film Collective


Chicago-based artist Monika Estrella Negra has recently launched an exciting new film production collective with a keen focus on queer women of color accurately titled, Audre's Revenge. I couldn't possibly articulate a description of this space the way Monika already has in such a clear, direct manner. Her words echo many long held sentiments by women of color who love the horror genre and who have worked tirelessly to etch out a network for themselves and their interests:

AUDRE'S REVENGE FILM was created in order to promote visibility of womyn, queer, trans and intersex folks of color in the sci fi and horror universe. As a dedicated horror fan, Monika decided that it would be amazing to create and hold space for the aforementioned demographic. Being the founder of Black and Brown Punk Show Collective in Chicago, IL, she thought it was important to create narratives of marginalized people in all subcultural spaces.

Film, especially horror and sci-fi, has had limited visibility of QTIPOC, and has never had a particular focus on that world. Being a marginalized persyn in this society, there are significant horrors that are only experienced by us, and are just as horrifying as a Michael Myer's film. Horror and sci-fi has also had a history of depicting social stigmas and taboos, bringing the darkest elements of our worlds and perspectives to light.

It is only natural for QTIPOC to utilize this medium to bring certain traumatic and realistic situations to the screen, and to also flip the script on genres that have overused certain concepts and character's narratives.
Monika's first project? Flesh; a two part mini web series centered around a woman named Rae and her obsession with physical attributes that takes an actively dark turn. Akin to Maniac or Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer but from the vantage of a woman of color, Flesh "aims to change this genre by putting a new perspective and voice to the person who turns to destruction, murder, and sociopathy in order to feel complete," taking a much "needed look at society's perception of beauty and privilege, and how our looks determine how far one can go."

Since stepping out fresh with an endeavor commonly sees gradual results over stretches of time, I asked Monika to provide a bit more detail about why Audre's Revenge and Flesh is important to the horror genre, women of color, queer women, and everyone else. She does so with this very insightful description:

FLESH is about a twenty something year old black, queer womyn named Rae who escaped poverty and lives an artist's life in Chicago. She's aesthetically 'alternative', working at a trendy cafe, and lives an entirely different life than her family. She resents and hides her impoverished upbringing, due to her insecurities around her white or privileged POC friends. She suffers from pervasive self hate, and a type of racial dysmorphia. She is that alternative Black girl who hides her kinky hair, and wears two shades light pressed powder.

Her white friend, of whom she is attracted to and obsessed with, consistently fetishizes Rae's blackness, which Rae takes as insult. Inevitably, wanting desperately to 'be' her friend, Rae decides to make her own skin – out of white women. Definitely Bathory-esque, the physical representation of taking flesh and creating her own mask is a testament to the internalization of Eurocentric beauty standards, and how Black girls feel at some point in their life. It's a topic that is very taboo, and people are hesitant to talk about Black folks who physically cannot pass, but attempt white assimilation in every other aspect of life.

The film explores PTSD, eurocentrism and pertinent anti-blackness. Anti-blackness is misunderstood when it comes to recognizing it as its own form of oppression. Racism is known as a systemic institution, anti-blackness is exclusive to any Black persyn, no matter how 'American' or 'White' they seem. It is a learned behavior and started right along with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It comes in the form of passive aggressive behavior, fetishization, tokenism, etc. What is so unique about racism, is that it is universal amongst Blacks and people of color. Everyone can harness its destructive power. This is what ultimately drives Rae to the brink of insanity.


This is a part of the Black psyche that is not typically portrayed as being horror. Rae's story is not unlike a lot of serial killer narratives. Serial killers have a purpose, and do not kill at random. Their targets are specific, and carefully chosen. Statistically, white men have been the major players in the serial killer universe. This definitely intersects with power dynamics, and white male fragility. Rae's story is unique because she is a Black woman trying to gain some type of power that is not often given to us.

The power to define ourselves as who we want to be, no matter how unsavory those wants may be. While a lot of people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of this brilliant black woman wanting to be white, and using murder to quell that thirst, it's a conversation I feel that needs to be had. It brings up the question of what Blackness is and what it isn't. Black people have felt the brunt of trauma and pertinent anti-blackness for decades. Our formation of self identity goes through many waves, though some are criticized more than others, especially when it comes to Black women. There is so much emphasis on our physical attributes that determines our 'wealth'. It's 2016 but the stigma still stands. White people typically feel more comfortable around lighter skin Blacks, and most Black men still prefer light POC and 'redbones'. It's an insecurity that can definitely make one insane, especially without righteous validation of self. Self worth is taught, and at times, our community is guilty of not recognizing the importance of it.

I am into all type of horror sub-genres, but I have always been fascinated by avant garde horror films, such as Dans Ma Peau (In My Skin) written and directed by Marina De Van. Yet I am also fascinated by Tracey Moffatt's experimental shorts, particularly Nice Coloured Girls and her usage of transgenerational narratives. None of these films have 'jump scares' or half naked women being murdered, but the stories remain just as horrifying. The genre of horror has always relied on spectacle at times, and remains in a fantasy realm. However, the real life horrors of insecurity, sense of self, etc. can be just as terrifying, and a type of release.

Notably, I love zombie films due to the sociological and political undertones they present. I am a huge Dario Argento fan! Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer helped me figure compare psyches while writing Rae's character. Obviously, there is a major difference, but the goal remains the same. It's a dark place to visit, but it definitely makes you aware of the freedoms and powers each one of us are allowed on a daily basis.

Maniac (1980)
My plans for Audre's Revenge Film (ARF) is to provide an umbrella for Black womyn/QTIPOC who share the same passion for horror, sci-fi, and afrofuturism. There are so many independent artists out there, making amazing material. Ultimately, a network of creatives with different visions can find the space to collaborate with each other. Ideally, I would love to work with Black Quantum Futurism in the creation of a visual interpretation of their writing. Horror is a genre that can be meshed with others and it would be fascinating to see it come to fruition.

Skill shares are definitely important to me as well. I definitely dreamed of going to film school, but it was not a viable option. I grew up poor and was the first to attend college. My family encouraged me to get a corporate job, as means of getting us out of poverty. Of course, it made me miserable when I took their advice, though my love for film making never left. I am still learning, as this is my first feature.

Though I credit Maya Lori (ARF member) with sharing her knowledge with me and teaching me the ropes. Therein lies the importance of skill shares and workshops to help those who have a curiosity and passion for horror/sci/fantasy film making, but can't afford to go to school. Ideally, as more people become involved (whether it be written pieces, editing, group projects), it will be interesting to see how many perspectives find common intersectionalities and the conversations had around it. Audre's Revenge will be that safe space to come together and explore a universe that has never heard our voices, or experienced our lived fears.
Right now, Monika and her crew need our help in raising funds to cut a trailer and produce solid marketing materials for press. This is a testiment to passion for a true and much needed surge in visibility for additionally unique voices and stories within the horror genre.
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