France, French Guiana
This wonderful documentary follows Lasseindra Ninja, a professional vogue dancer who returns to her home country of French Guiana to teach the beauty and drama of vogue. Lasseindra’s story of exile and return is like so many hero’s journeys: a quest to find where the truth of oneself really lives. Do we find ourselves out in the world, or when we come home again?
Director Audrey Jean-Baptiste shows care and respect for her participants and a great love for the queer French Guianese community in process and practice. This film was shot in indoor locations, undercover. French Guiana’s population is only sixty thousand people, and though homosexuality is not illegal, unintentionally outing someone in such a close-knit community could have serious consequences. Drag and vogue are rooted in these underground, temporary safe spaces where freedom can fly about unfettered and play and creativity flourish. These performance styles are also inextricably linked to support systems and chosen family, alternatives to larger structures that have failed and marginalized the most vulnerable communities. The tension and danger from the outside seeps into the precious world Lasseindra has built for her students. Having faced her own dragons many times over, Lasseindra encourages the young people to funnel their rage, heartbreak and urgency through their bodies. Through one-on-one interviews and in the conversations during dance class, the audience is invited into intimate encounters with these determined dancers who stretch beyond the constraints society attempts to hold them within.
Fabulous is an exploration of this queer microcosm as much as it is a portrait of Lasseindra herself in a search for reconciliation with her sense of home. As she steps into a leadership role, we see her struggle with the weight of such a responsibility, as any compassionate leader would do. This charming, courageous film is a lot like the art form at its centre; fierce, resilient and expressive.