Serving Neukölln realness
The Real Housewives of Neukölln are celebrating their first anniversary, and now the drag quintet is the subject of a short documentary, screening this Saturday at Lichtblick-Kino
Aug. 8, 2017 – You won't find them on Bravo, but you might see The Real Housewives of Neukölln onstage in Berlin: Collapsella (Fábio M Silva), Cheryl Offoffoff-Broadway (Jake Boyer), Ash Traylia (Henry Boles), Fanny Crackwhore (James Doyle) and Ida Entity (Jana/Ode Milk). In just one year's time, the drag troupe has gained a small cult following in Berlin's queer performance scene, and filmmakers Réda Ait and Joséphine Page have been following the five stay-at-home moms from the beginning. Their trashy antics and off-stage personalities now form a 30-minute documentary, which gets its Berlin premiere on August 12 at Lichtblick-Kino. We spoke with one of the directors and a couple of the wives
What prompted the Housewives to form one year ago?
Fábio M Silva: James and I were working at The Club at the time, and that was when Olympia Bukkakis moved her weekly show to a bigger venue. So, there wasn't any event lined up for Fridays. Our boss kind of gave us an ultimatum: that we put together a show for the upcoming Friday. We had never done a drag show before.
Wow. So, there were originally just two Housewives?
FMS: For the first show, we also invited Jake.
Jake Boyer: I had just created Cheryl earlier that summer, doing events here and there with Cher Nobyl. But nothing to the extent of what the Housewives quickly became.
FMS: We also asked Henry, who also had experience doing drag.
Réda, at what point did you decide they were worth capturing on film?
Réda Ait: Fábio and I met about a week before we formed and came to our show. I've been filming people in Paris for two years, people I find really interesting, especially from the queer community. It was the first time I started a documentary in Berlin. We connected quickly.
After The Club closed in February, you obviously decided to continue.
FMS: Already before it closed, we knew we had to do something bigger, because the space couldn't fit everyone who wanted to come in. We realized there was something special. So we started Frrruity, our party at Rosi's.
Réda, you've said that this documentary is not just about the Housewives, but about Berlin and the freedom it represents. How so?
RA: Everything. They're not afraid of what might happen. Every week, no matter what they were doing the night before, even if they weren't prepared, they would jump on stage and start the show. They have a natural way with improvisation and comedy. They embody the idea that you don't have to over-think what you are doing. Just go! That's what represents my experience of Berlin.
It sounds quite different from a typical lip-synch performance. Fábio, what are some of the topics you deal with onstage?
FMS: Most of our performances focus on our social lives as queer people in Berlin. Sometimes I re-write the lyrics of a pop song and make them about Grindr or about a long and crazy clubbing weekend; other times I write original music about dealing with my gender identity. I also like to do a lot of references to the art world from the perspective of a non-binary person; for example, I've performed Yoko Ono's 1964 feminist performance Cut Piece as Collapsella in one of our shows.
How can you justify calling yourselves the “Real” Housewives of Neukölln, when the whole group consists of expats?
JB: We are very representative of the new wave that is making art and culture. Neukölln is full of people from all over the place, and we are part of that.
OK, but then you're kind of implying that the others aren't real.
JB: Well, the name is riffing on the TV show, of course. We're not implying anything about anyone else.
FMS: It wasn't related to the neighborhood or being housewives, it was just a fun name.
Sure, I realize drag culture often references pop culture. That was just a “gotcha!” question.
FMS: But I think we do represent the trashy aesthetic of Neukölln. The neighborhood itself is dirty.
JB: Sex, drugs and fabulousness. That's what I see all the time – that's what Neukölln is all about.
Interview: Joey Hansom
The Real Housewives of Neukölln, the Documentary
Aug. 12, 20:30, Licktblick-Kino