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Filled with ball gowns, makeup, an alcohol-stocked minifridge and three queens with a dream, Stephan Elliott’s 1994 movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” took audiences on an Aussie road trip for the ages. Though the story begins as a comedy, “Priscilla” also deals with serious issues like homophobia, transphobia and trying to make it as a performer. Now, 25 years after the film’s release, the Windsor International Film Festival is commemorating the film’s longstanding impact on LGBTQ cinema with a screening and an appearance by “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3” winner Trixie Mattel on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Mattel will preface the film’s screening with a performance and take the stage once again afterward as well. Ahead of the show, BTL caught up with Mattel to get her take on the film’s relevance 25 years after its release, how it’s changed the perception of drag and what it means to her.
When was the first time that you saw “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”?
When I was in college, a lot of drag cinema hit me all at once — “To Wong Foo,” “Hedwig” and “Priscilla.” I find this movie very touching, but also Australian accents are fucking crazy.
Once you did see it, did it impact or inspire your drag in any way?
I believe this movie definitely fed and watered the seed in me that loved ABBA so much! Plus, I love the giant floral headpieces when the girls are performing in the desert for the natives.
What does the film mean to you?
This movie will always remind me of being in college and discovering drag by myself at my own pace. Even for a drag superstar like me, it was scary. You have to remember, I spent the first 18 years of my life in the deep country. “Priscilla” is a movie about how the world sees queerness and how drag queens have to navigate around it to survive. That message is timeless.
“Priscilla” was a very groundbreaking film for its time, showing a positive relationship between a father who does drag and his supportive son and wife. Do you think that positive portrayal contributed to its longevity?
I think that “Priscilla” was groundbreaking in the way it humanized a drag queen. Long before “Drag Race” or “To Wong Foo” or “Hedwig,” “Priscilla” showed an artist grappling with his family and drag. It’s very easy to see us as amusements and not human beings.
You’ve talked before about how drag has always played a role in cinema. Now looking back at the film 25 years after its release do you think “Priscilla” opened doors for other filmmakers looking to explore drag and the LGBTQ community?
The impact that a film like “Priscilla” had on culture is immeasurable. Now we see movies like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “White Chicks,” “Madea” — movies that are drag movies technically. They just aren’t defined as such.
You’ll be introducing the film to the audience and closing it off with a set. What are some of your favorite moments or one-liners?
“Hey, I just flew into town and boy am I oppressed by a patriarchy systematically put in place to keep me down!”
Will you be wearing a “Priscilla”-inspired look?
It’s a movie theater! I’ll be wearing a dress with a peplum — to catch popcorn!
The event begins at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Chrysler Theatre that is located at 201 Riverside Drive in Windsor, Ontario. To find out more information about the event and to buy tickets visit windsorfilmfestival.com.