Film Review: Tall Tales with True Queens ★★★1/2

Documentary short Tall Tales with True Queens was due to world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last month. It’s a sequin covered rhinestone gem of film co-directed, produced and shot by Kristina Budelis and Leandro Badalotti that invites us to sit comfortably and get a glimpse into the amazing world of Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) program. With chapters across the USA, the locally and independently produced events feature, as you might gather from the name, drag queens reading stories to kids and their parents in libraries, schools and bookstores.

Tall Tales with True Queens. Courtesy of Tribeca.

Tall Tales takes us on the New York subway with one queen, fully resplendent in drag. She’s on her way to a reading at a library in Brooklyn where we see her in action and meet other storytelling queens including Lil Miss Hot Mess, Mz Jade, Harmonica Sunbeam and Ms B, who we see describe drag queens to a group of kids as being “like clowns but prettier”. While the queens give us their take on what they think the kids get out the experience, we also hear from some of the attendees themselves such as 6 year-old Adeele who says  “they look like women and queens” and another child who offers that her reader is “a queen of dragons”.

Tall Tales with True Queens. Courtesy of Tribeca.

Queer mom, and DQSH founder, Michelle Tea was looking for events to take her son when she came up with the idea of taking queens out of their nightlife realms to add some sparkle into young lives during daylight hours. From the events shown in the film it certainly appears that the larger than life characters and sparkly outfits hold these kids attention. We hear from one mother who says it’s the first time her child has ever sat quietly for a story hour. But not everyone is happy. The words “gender fluidity” used in DQSH’s description of their events get some protestors and right-wing media outlets hot under the collar. Due to play in a shorts program titled ‘No Surrender’ at Tribeca, Tall Tales acknowledges those who are fervently against the readings, including interviews with some of the protestors outside a Brooklyn event, but the ultimate message is one of perseverance. Despite the voices that would silence them, the queens stay fabulous and carry on, encouraged by the open-mindedness they see in the upcoming generation. It’ll take more than a few protestors to stop these queens.

By James Kleinmann

Tall Tales with True Queens was due to world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and was made available to press.

During this time when many schools and libraries remain shut due to COVID-19 there are DQSH livestream experiences. Head to their website for more details.

Tall Tales with True Queens. Courtesy of Tribeca.

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