‘Queercore’ film connects queer, punk-rock culture

In the documentary, “Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution,” queer filmmaker Yony Leyser explores the intersectionality of punk rock and queer culture from the 1980s to early 2000s. During that time, members of the queer community tried to make a space for themselves in punk-rock culture.

opened Friday in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Art theatre. In the following weeks, “Queercore” will play in additional cities, including Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Bruce LaBruce, director John Waters, Justin Vivian Bond, Pansy Division, Kim Gordon, and Bikini Kill are interviewed in the documentary.

In an interview with Q Voice News, Leyser, 34 and a fan of punk music since his high school days, talks about the inspiration for “Queercore” and punk rock’s queer roots.

Here are some excerpts.

‘Queercore’ Inspiration

“I was always a punk in high school and college,” Leyser says. “I really liked punk’s rebellion against conformity and consumerism and the status quo, but I thought punk was always very macho.

“When I learned about queercore, and I learned that punk culture was actually rooted in queer culture and people didn’t really know about it, I wanted to make a film.”

‘Queercore’ Inspiration Part 2

“I was also frustrated by the commodification and amalgamation of queer culture, which used to be so radical. Queer culture was ‘outsider,’ and in its ‘outsider’ status it’s able to critique mainstream society. As queer culture got more and more accepted, the radical potential went down.”

Queercore Documentary

Bikini Kill (featured in “Queercore”: How to Punk a Revolution”) perform at The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific in Seattle in March 1995. Photo: Alice Wheeler.

Punk Rock’s Queer Roots

“The first punk shows were at gay bars throughout the United States and the world,” Leyser says. “That was a big shock for me because I had no idea that punk sprung up from queer culture and that the two were so linked.

“The punks looked crazy. They wore tight pants. They had crazy haircuts,” Leyser says. “The only ones that were ‘outside’ enough to accept them were the fags. At the fag bars, anything went, it was the only places that would let them in.”

Leyser’s Queer Films

“All my films are about queer outsiders, like William S. Burroughs, and then ‘Desire Will Set You Free’ was about the queer nightlife in Berlin,” Leyser says. “To tie them all together, queer deviants is a theme that I’m interested in. What we can get by embracing the deviant, by embracing the fact that we don’t contribute to straight society? What can we achieve when we try not to contribute? It’s an interesting topic to think about.”

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