GURL, a musical fantasy by artist activist Mika X, will have its World Premiere in Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival July 24- Aug 2.
GURL, a 20-minute short film made as a chapter in the planned feature The Book of Carmen, will screen in the Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2020 selection curated by Leo Koziol and Craig Fasi. The
Festival is also planning limited screenings of Ngā Whanaunga in selected cinemas – to be announced.
GURL is Mika’s unique lightly disguised retelling of the true story of Carmen, New Zealand’s infamous Māori drag queen, in which he re-imagines the Golden Age of New Zealand's 1970s bustling underground sex scene, as told to Mika by Carmen Rupe.
Set in the fantastical world of blood-red walls and purple bedspreads; manipulative, shameless, this lost world is bought to life led by breast-plunging Mumu-swinging Carmen (played by Jay Tewake), who opened her glittering gates to the lost and the losers. GURL also stars Jackie Clarke, Brady Peeti and Regan Taylor.
"Carmen and I were not interested in making 'just' a biopic," says Mika. "As queer Māori, we learn to co-exist in this alternative universe we must navigate. There are some things we kept absolutely true, obviously, and there are some things that we changed. Like who slept with who?”
An anonymous All Black makes an appearance in GURL, where fact and fiction are blended - protecting the innocent, Mika says, “There have been bi-curious All Blacks since time began. Ed, the famous ex-All Black lover played by Regan Taylor is a composite of many of Carmen's beaus. Why not name the All Black? Because the rugby players concerned weren't anti-gay and, more importantly, those who helped me make and create this story - Carmen, Dalvanius Prime and Merata Mita came from an old school where what we know stays with us alone.”
"GURL digs up the horrors and joys of our buried history," Mika says, referring to his life-long focus on Maori and LGBTIQ minorities.
A musical fantasy with a surprisingly tender love story at its heart, GURL takes place one frantic night as a beautiful young sex worker waits for her salesman lover to whisk her away from her last night on the strip to live happily ever after. But it’s 1975 and she’s a Māori drag queen. And he’s not the ‘white knight’ he said he was.