New York's famous girl gangs are rolling into Chicago. Photographer and filmmaker Katrina del Mar, who dreamed up these roving territorial gangs of punk-rock lesbians with her 1999 short film Gang Girls 2000, presents all three of her girl-gang films as a trilogy Saturday, Oct. 27, at The Nightingale Theater, 1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Gang Girls 2000 (1999), Surf Gang (2005) and Hell On Wheels: Gang Girls Forever (2010) are each roughly 30-minute B-movie exploitation-style films centered on fictional girl gangs (e.g. the Glitter Girls, the Rockaway Ruffnecks, the Outcasts, etc.) at war with each other that talk trash, rumble and make out.
del Mar describes herself a "feminist guerilla filmmaker" who has been inspired by the work of cartoonist Lynda Barry, filmmaker John Waters and punk rocker/artist Kembra Pfahler. The Girl Gang Trilogy has played to international audiences in Australia and throughout Europe.
She talked with Windy City Times about what inspired her to make up stories about girl gangs, why it's become a successful "genre," and her unorthodox approach to the filmmaking process.
Windy City Times: Why the approach of fiction for you personally as an artist, as opposed to documentary?
Katrina del Mar: I've always loved reading fiction, and there's this element of fantasy I've always enjoyed. Not only that, but I'm kind of a daydreamer, I guess, and when I did the research I was hoping to find some cool information about some girl gangs and there was none and I was disappointed. There is a world that I seem to expect and it's not really out there, so I create it. And I think that's the essence of artistic expression in a way. The world I want to see I create it.
WCT: In that sense, what motivated you to create these girl gangs?
Katrina del Mar: I grew up not seeing enough images of women kissing each other on TV or in the movies. During scenes where people like Harrison Ford were kissing beautiful women, I had to imagine that he wasn't in the scene and a woman was. I could watch it as it is and have no experience, but if I wanted to have a visceral experience and appreciate the sexuality of the scene, I had to imagine there was a chick kissing this chick instead of 60-year-old Harrison Ford making out with some 25-year-old chick, for example. He's a terrible kisser, too. He's the most horrible kisser on screen that I've ever seen.
WCT: I know! He just thrusts his face at women.
Katrina del Mar: Yeah; he just shoves his face on people's faces and just smashes them. So, the heterosexual kiss is something I've seen so many times and I'm trying to correct the imbalance in a way. In my movies I usually make the women make out with each other.
WCT: How do people respond to these films? What seems to work?
Katrina del Mar: They really like the imagery, they like the humor. A lot of times I get the feedback, "How did you find so many hot women? Are these your friendsdo you really know these people?" Also, I have a photography background, so I'm really proud that you could freeze-frame an image and it would be a beautiful image. Then for this latest film [Hell on Wheels], this one has more dialogue than the first two. People find it more humorous. None of this is meant to be super seriousit's all for fun.
WCT: What are your plans for the girl-gang genre in the future?
Katrina del Mar: I like the idea of making it into a Saturday morning cartoon or something like that but for adults, so it wouldn't be on Saturday mornings. Like, serialize it; I think it would be a great series. But in the meantime, I'm interested in doing something different, a feature or a new web series that's out of that genre. … I'm writing a feature with a friend of mine that we're planning to shoot in the spring and probably be doing one of those crowd-sourcing initiatives to make a kick-ass feature.
WCT: This is something that Girl Gang Trilogy fans would be interested in?
Katrina del Mar: Yeah, I'm hoping that people will continue to be interested in my work and I hope it will be better. My films were all made with very little money and sometimes that necessitated a very Ed Wood approach to making movies, you know, take it and go even if it's not perfect. None of my films are perfect. I don't think they're masterpieces by any stretch. They have great qualities to them and I really enjoy them in certain ways, but I don't think they're my best work. I hope my best work is yet to come.
WCT: Talk to me about this B-movie approach that you take to your films.
Katrina del Mar: When I was a teenager I met Kembra Pfahler and she told me about her ethos of availablismthat you make the best use of what is available. She talked to me over the years and always said, "Use what's available, don't wait to make your art, do it now. It's DIYdo it yourself, get it done. If you don't do it, nobody's going to do it; it doesn't have to be done perfectly."
I had to move away from perfectionism to get anything done. Really, I am a perfectionist. You wouldn't know it by looking at my films, but I'm a complete perfectionist. [The girl-gang] films are exercises in getting away from perfectionism, actually.
See "Girl Gang Trilogy by Katrina del Mar" on Facebook for more info.