Queendom – radical queer performance artist struts the streets of Moscow
In Queendom, Gena Marvin, a queer artist from a small town in Russia, stages radical performances in public that become a new form of art and activism, while at the same time putting her life in danger. She dresses in otherworldly costumes made from found objects and tape, and protests the government on the streets of Moscow on various issues, from LGBTQ+ rights to the war in Ukraine.
Born and raised on the harsh streets of small town Magadan, a frigid outpost of the Soviet gulag, the 21 year old misunderstood artist stages radical performances in public that become a new form of art and activism. By doing that, she wants to change people’s perception of beauty and queerness and bring attention to the harassment of the LGBTQ+ community. The performances – often dark, strange, evocative, and queer at their core – are a manifestation of Gena’s subconscious. But they come at a price.
This documentary shows Gena Marvin as one of the most outrageous and extravagant performance artists out there. Her flamboyant style was way beyond what her small Russian town could comprehend, or for the majority of Russians overall for that matter. She knew she was different from the others, identifying as non-gender and non-sexuality, more an entity than an individual. Losing her mother at a young age, she lived with her grandparents, who while trying to be accepting of Gena’s outlandish ways, still wanted the best for her and encouraged her to finish school, get a job, and get married – the all encompassed heteronormative lifestyle. T
o say the least, life was a constant struggle, but Gena never once backed down to pursue her dreams of being an avantgarde artist. She endured constant verbal and physical abuse by putting herself out in the open, was expelled from school, and was arrested more than once. All because of close-minded individuals. This is when the “chosen family” is needed most, and she does find her tribe within the underground party scene and also within fashion circles. Her main goal is to be recognized for the work that she does around social issues, along with the impeccable outfits she creates. Once Putin declares war on Ukraine, Gena decides the only option left is to leave Russian before being conscripted to the battlefields.
Now living in Paris, she’s finally being recognized for the artist she is, but at the price of leaving her friends and family back home. This is a wonderful documentary not only on a strong willed individual, but it also gives some insight into the real Russia that North America is often not privy to because of our own government control. #TeamGena
Director Agniia Galdanova is a Sundance and IDFA-supported documentary film director. Her previous film “One Step Forward, One Step Back” about a family’s dream to live far from civilization in the Altai Mountains premiered at the Message to Man International Film Festival. Queendom had its World Premiere at 2023 SXSW.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – Agniia Galdanova
As a teenager, I had a hard time accepting myself and constantly endured humiliation and beatings because of my “unfeminine” look. From an early age, I often pretended to be a boy,and wore shapeless clothes and heavy shoes. This was my refuge from the stereotype that a girl should be feminine. Years later, I was beaten up by two men in the very center of Moscow just because they had mistaken me for a guy in a skirt. I decided to explore the themes of sexuality and gender identity further in my work. My initial idea was to follow several drag queens across Russia. One of the first potential characters I met was Gena. After spending time together, I was mesmerized by Gena’s artistry and courage. To me, she wasn’t one of many drag queens. She was an artist embarking on a journey of self-discovery.I hope that when someone from Russia or any other country where being queer is illegal watches QUEENDOM, the film and Gena will give them the confidence to accept themselves and share their truth with the world, however dangerous it could be.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.