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Stories from the lesbian underground scene

Regissør: Leilah Weinraub

Leilah Weinraub's Shakedown is a fascinating glimpse into the world of African-American lesbian clubs and strip shows.


Shakedown (2018) is based on extensive interviews with women who have been involved in the African-American lesbian nightclub scene in Los Angeles for the past 30 years. The documentary had its world premiere with viewing on the 68. International Film Festival in Berlin's Panorama Audience Award. Seeing the film publicly for the first time to a Berlinale audience – in a city with a long tradition of tolerance to the queer population – was like an echo from another world.

Shakedown Productions. The film opens with a seductive list of exotic names of dancers who appear in this entire movie of the evening, and the audience is prepared for a wonderful journey through a patchwork of archival clips, current show posters and interviews with the leading characters on stage.

The movie runs pretty hectic with 22 scenes at the pace of the African-American women's lesbian underground clubs in Los Angeles in the 1980, 1990 and 2000's. The dancers – known as the Shakedown Angels – are portrayed in the film, along with security guards Big T and Tina. The feeling of getting into a very exclusive, secret world is unavoidable.

With a cut between archival footage and interviews, Weinraub wants to illuminate the underground dance scene and the female artists who found their way there.

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The director is herself an active participant on the lesbian underground scene, and she draws us into the exciting and exotic world she documents. . .

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Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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