Sundance 2021 Film Review: Weirdo Night ★★★★

Thanks to the programmers of Sundance’s New Frontiers section for giving me the best night out I’ve had since last March (without having to leave my apartment or get out of my pyjamas) with creator-writer-star Jibz Cameron and director Mariah Garnett’s Weirdo Night. Acknowledging, but not dwelling on, the lack of audience in the room to perform to—there’s a great wide shot that let’s us take in the empty plastic chairs—Jibz, as her performing alter-ego Dynasty Handbag, gets on with the ultra socially distant show; “Hello, nobody! Hello, void! Hello, infinite space!” Weirdo Night, which premiered at Sundance, is a specially filmed version of the ordinarily monthly LA-based queer experimental cabaret-style event curated and hosted by Dynasty Handbag. It was birthed at a Silverlake Spanish restaurant, El Cid, in 2016 before switching venues the following year to Zebulon Café Concert, which itself had uprooted from Brooklyn, creating a monthly queer nightlife highlight that’s been particularly welcome in a city that’s devoid of a permanent lesbian bar.

Patti Harrison in Weirdo Night. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The film’s guest performers include the deadly serious looking music act Smiling Beth with a gorgeously mellow song, the double surgical masked (one over her mouth, one over her eyes) actress and comedian Patti Harrison (Shrill) with her band the Dildo Police (Vagabon and Sasami) offering an insane but catchy number with death metal vibes, I am not Gay, and then there’s the pink and yellow neon-outfitted drag artist Bibi FKA Blasia Discoteca with an entrancing lip-sync. There are also acts that take us away from the venue itself, helping to keep things energised and visually varied, like Morgan Bassichis coming live from a New York bathroom, comedian Sarah Squirm in the desert with a riff on the material of misogynist standups, and Hedia Maron’s short film Another Movie About My Mother. This deliciously eclectic lineup is brilliantly interwoven with intros, skits, and songs by Dynasty Handbag with their frequently hilarious brand of intelligence, queer flair, and a touch of filth, along with a dry wit that’s reminiscent of the mighty Sandra Bernhard. Dynasty Handbag is not that into tech (she uses a banana as a cellphone) so rather than take to Insta or Zoom, she’s made this film with Garnett, which despite the lack of audience in the room manages to capture the spirit of live entertainment. Weirdo Night is intended as a pilot episode for a potential series and I’d love to see more instalments until we can all meet again for an in the flesh queer night out.

By James Kleinmann

Weirdo Night premiered in the New Frontiers section at Sundance 2021.

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