Asexuality is only rarely discussed in today’s media. Even rarer is asexual individuals telling stories about their asexuality in their own voices. Three young US filmmakers are seeking to challenge that.
The Rainbow film scene globally
The LGBTQIA+ movement is becoming more mainstream globally. As this happens, Rainbow community stories and queer storytellers are gaining prominence in the media, particularly in film. In New Zealand, the Out Takes film festival ran annually from 1995-2014, playing local and international films showcasing queer issues to LGBTQIA+ communities across the country.
Across the Tasman, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival remains Australia’s oldest and largest queer film festival. Starting as part of broader pride celebrations in 1981, since 1992 the festival has continued to move from strength to strength, moving to ever larger and more varied venues as crowds have continued to grow. In the festival’s latest iteration, which ran last month, nearly 80 films from Australia, the Pacific region, and across the world were shown, discussing the experiences of individuals from across the LGBTQIA+ community, and encompassing genres as diverse as documentary, animated shorts, and farce.
In recent years, the queer film scene has grown beyond its roots in telling stories about gay and lesbian identity. The 2018 Melbourne festival offered films dealing with gender diversity, transgender identity, bisexuality, and youth Rainbow stories. Excitingly, a number of films at the festival also aimed to represent the experiences of Rainbow community individuals of all aspects of life. These films have added to the evocative work already done in queer cinema dealing with coming out, discrimination, and acceptance.
Asexuality’s limited visibility in cinema
However, asexuality remains a relatively under-represented corner of the LGBTQIA+ community in the world of queer film, and in broader media. None of the films at the 2018 Melbourne Queer Film Festival, for instance, described themselves as dealing with asexuality.
More generally, there are relatively few depictions of openly asexual characters in the media. The coming out of a character as asexual on popular UK soap Emmerdale in February may be the highest profile representation of an expressly asexual character to date. The Emmerdale storyline is one of the few to have expressly negotiated a character’s asexuality. More often, a TV or movie character’s asexuality is argued for by fans of that work on the basis of a character’s lack of sexual attraction to others, rather than dealt with by writers. As this shows, there’s no lack of interest amongst the estimated 1% of the population that is asexual to see reflections of their asexuality in the media. Twitter was abuzz with praise for Emmerdale’s hinting at that character’s asexuality when it was first raised in the show last October.
In many cases, fans’ arguments for characters’ asexuality are based mainly on their absence of any sexual relationships with or attractions to others, rather than any statements by the character of their thoughts and experiences. The fact that asexual fans identify with characters just because of the absence of the use of sexuality as a plot or character device for that character shows just how commonly these tropes are used, if their absence is conspicuous enough to raise a valid argument for a character’s asexuality.
Challenging this absence – Two Weeks
It’s against this background that three young female US film-makers from the independent New York production company Besties Make Movies are seeking to help an asexual film maker tell her story. Marzy Hart, an openly asexual Russian-Jewish-American actor and film-maker, along with director Victoria Negri and producer Stacey Maltin, is currently seeking seed funding for 2 Weeks.
Based on Hart’s own experiences, the film will follow the story of Tanya. Tanya, a 20-something closeted asexual, experiences feelings of isolation and othering as she struggles to balance expressing her asexuality, her feelings of commitment and obligation to her partner, and her struggles trying to find success as an film actor in an industry that, according to Hart, “perpetuates women’s worth based on sexual appeal.” In what appears to be new ground in cinema, the film also aims to explore the relationship between feminist sexual empowerment and asexuality by exploring how Tanya’s “woke” friend group, while well intentioned, are unable to relate to some comfortable living without sex. The film, over the course of two weeks, follows Tanya on her course to coming out and asserting her asexuality.
Promoting the project, Hart describes the film as reflecting her experiences as an asexual woman up until she came in 2017. Telling a story familiar to many asexuals, Hart has talked about her feelings of having “always thought I was broken, that someday my sex drive would kick into gear and I’d be a real functioning person because I wasn’t.” Hart says that she wants to shoot 2 Weeks as a stress horror/realistic horror film to capture the sense of isolation she felt on her journey to coming out, and the struggles she had relating to members of the highly-sexualised LGBTQIA+ community around her.
Victoria Negri, who will direct the film, says that they intend to shoot in the late New York winter, coupling the famed bleakness of that city scape in winter – the backdrop to many famed noir and thriller films – with cool and gritty set design and colour schemes to emphasise themes of emotional isolation. Drawing cues from high-profile recent films negotiating issues of identity and otherness – particularly Mother! and Get Out – the film will use nightmare-fantasy elements to further reinforce the anxieties that Tanya experiences in contemplating coming out.
2 Weeks has attracted, at the time of writing, over $10,000 USD in funding of a $16,000 USD goal, with eight days remaining. Extensive rewards are available to backers willing to contribute four figures to the project. The film represents an important step in not only depicting the experiences of asexuals in the media, but of asexuals telling their own stories in their own words.
The film answers the obvious desire amongst asexuals, indicated by the very positive response to the Emmerdale storyline, to see their stories being represented in the media. 2 Weeks may, hopefully, encourange a wave of ace storytelling by aces, that raises awareness and understanding of asexuality in the broader Rainbow community, and across society as a whole. With luck, before long it will be able to be screened at an appropriate venue in New Zealand, or at a suitably inclusive film festival.
The Asexuality New Zealand Trust has no control over, accepts no responsibility for, and does not necessarily endorse the content of external websites. The Trust is in no way associated with Besties Make Movies, and neither endorses nor discourages readers from making financial contributions to the project described above.