Hot Docs 2016: Strike a Pose
Now that enough time has started to pass in the fight for equality and social acceptance in the LGBT community in North America, stories reflecting on the past and key moments in the struggle have started to emerge. There is a compelling and important history that is now being documented. The documentary Strike a Pose, directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, and set against the backdrop of Madonna’s iconic 1990 Blond Ambition Tour and accompanying documentary film Truth or Dare, tells the story of a group of dancers who were unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight and reluctantly became beacons for pushing the gay rights movement forward at a time when it was still controversial. This is a cathartic look at what came after the fame bubble burst and the lasting impact these experiences had on these men.
Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition tour was a defining moment in music history and sent her popularity into the stratosphere. In a rare instance, the group of backup dancers for the show also had fans of their own. During the tour, a documentary called Truth or Dare was also filmed and released a year later. Both it and the tour unapologetically pushed the boundaries of acceptance on a variety of social issues including religion, sexual politics, and homosexuality. This became a crucial moment in the upheaval that was happening within the America gay community and with the spread of HIV.
The group of seven dancers, six of whom were gay, were flying high at the height of their popularity. The tour and the documentary made them famous and they were living a glamorous life of partying, drinking, and drugs. When the sheen began to wear off and with the addictions getting worse, trouble was brewing for them. Having believed their own hype, they struggled with finding themselves and with living a normal life. Their careers began to fall apart and they lost almost everything. For over 20 years, they were fighting with falling out of touch with Madonna, addiction, illness (three in the group were HIV-positive), and regrets. They were striving to live their own truths.
Now twenty-five years later, the surviving members of the group are telling the behind the scenes story of what they went through in an effort to heal their wounds. They are able to look back at the impact they had on society with an objective eye and appreciate that they were role models for young gay kids everywhere who where often experiencing their first exposure to gay people in Truth or Dare and it gave them hope. Their behaviour and actions at times was destructive and society was still very unkind to LGBT people but they have now learned to use those experiences to strengthen their resolve. Once they were finally able to let go of their secrets and shame and be completely honest with each other, they were finally able to find themselves and be at peace.
The film is at its core a tale of redemption. It has allowed these men to come together once again. Even after all these years, they are still family, for they traversed through something remarkable together. We are offered a fascinating glimpse into the world behind an important moment in history. We see how these men helped humanize the gay community in a way they never could have expected. It leaves the viewer with a hopeful sense of positivity and a message of allowing your experiences to become woven into the fabric of who you are. It reminds us that even though our lives may not turn out the way we thought they would, we still have strength and purpose. It’s a beautiful story of healing and redemption. It’s a message of self-acceptance and it is powerful and affirming.
Read our interview with the directors of Strike A Pose
Read more of our Hot Docs Reviews