Berlinale: Shakedown

Directed by Leila Weinraub

by Marko Domazet

There ain’t no party like a shakedown party (my own quote, based purely on the film, never actually been to their parties).

Shakedown was a series of parties thrown in the Los Angeles area over the last decade. The parties were strictly underground, mainly geared at gay African American women and based around floor shows during which the female audience would get all interactive with the female dancers, slipping dollar notes into their thongs, showering them with bills, and from time to time, busting out a dance move (and boob) themselves. Shakedown follows a number of these party characters and keeps the action confined to either the dressing room or the dance floor. Apart from one of the go-go dancers, we don’t know about these women off the dance floor. Instead, very much like Paris is Burning, we are given access to a scene where there is no judging, no backgrounds, no hassle. Well, as long as you are one of the crowd.

People attending become a part of an urban clan (or family as they refer to themselves) – just watch what happens when the police attempt an undercover bust. Shakedown is an interesting documentary from many aspects. Its exploration of the female gaze is refreshing – this a room full of women perving over each other and not showing any restraint. Its documentation of an underground movement is fascinating and raw. It’s really refreshing that the film has not had a very professional structure. This was not filmed by professional camera operators, it was not lit, it was just captured as it happened – raw, genuine and real.

A lot of places like Shakedown are disappearing; whether it’s further under the radar or just disappearing all together is a separate discussion, but documenting a movement like this will be worth its weight in gold for future generations.


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