New Film Documents History & Artistry of Flagging
One of my first experiences in a dance club exposed me to the magic of the flow arts. I watched the mesmerizing art form as the colored silk fabrics were being manipulated by handsome, muscular, sexy men, who whirled and danced on the stage in the glow of black light.
Totally infatuated with the art form, I was intimidated to even try it. However the flagging bug bit me and it would only be a short time before I found the courage to ask someone to show me how it was done. Unlocking that moment, I found the door to a unique and wonderful tribe.
My experience is not unlike many others; in fact most flow artists (people who flag, fan dance or spin poi), would tell you that that is exactly how they found their way into this esoteric sub-community within the gay dance world. The way knowledge is imparted from the experts to acolytes is a crucial part of "Flow Affair," the first full-length documentary film about flagging.
Director Wolfgang Busch, is a gay social activist who had already received several awards from various film festivals. as director, producer and cinematographer for his first documentary, "How Do I Look." Released in 2006, it was meant as a follow-up and homage to Jenny Livingstone’s groundbreaking documentary about the Harlem ball scene, "Paris Is Burning."
His self-proclaimed goal is to "bring social empowerment to the underserved gay communities". As a grass-roots community organizer, Busch hopes to use his films to help close the gaps between communities and break down stereotypes, racism, sexism and homophobia.
10 Years Chronicling a Tribe
Premiering in San Francisco on Friday, July 29, at the Metropolitan Community Church, this labor of love and storytelling pays homage to a history that is often hard to piece together due to the lives and stories lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Add to this the challenge of a division in the community about whether or not even to share this art form in any way other than a tribal knowledge versus recorded stories and you can start to see how difficult documenting this art form has been.
These stories captured in this documentary only scratch the surface of the difficulties Busch had getting this film completed. Busch would end up spending 10 years on this project.
The film includes commentary from such well-known flaggers as Xavier Caylor of San Francisco, George Jagatic of New York, and poi spinner Isa Isaacs (Glitter Girl) of San Francisco and the Temple of Poi. These artists, or "shamans," as Busch calls them, give depth and range to the story. Missing are some key members of the flagging community who may have added some additional depth and color to the conversation, but according to Wolfgang, "chose not to participate."
Explaining how the legacy and art of fanning was historically passed down from Leather Daddy to Leather Boy, creating a flag or fan daddy, Busch pieces together how this community developed a unique language and culture. He details the history, with a large focus on the New York scene, as this art form grew out of the Downtown Manhattan club scene that flourished in the decade after Stonewall.
Fan dancing originated in the Far East, most likely China. Busch weaves a tale about early artists in clubs like the Anvil in New York, a famous leather bar where club goers spun t-shirts or the ubiquitous handkerchiefs. Going deeper, Busch explores the differences in the West Coast flagging scene, with the silk creations of Xavier Caylor and flagger boy Phillip Bryan.