Anomaly Film Festival to screen guerrilla art piece 'The People’s Joker' 

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There are plenty of films screening at this year’s Anomaly Film Festival — a genre-based fest which runs November 8 - 12 — but only one has received letters from Warner Bros., been pulled from festivals, and had a “secret” Australian tour before coming to Rochester.

Directed by Adult Swim veteran Vera Drew, “The People’s Joker” is far from a traditional comic book movie. Equal parts queer guerilla cinema and avant-garde art piece, both Drew’s film and its reputation have changed quite a bit since premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival last year – in spite of a strongly worded letter from Warner Bros. over possible copyright issues.

“It’s a parody film that makes people cry and is autobiographical, and is about a lot of things, so I always just assumed we were going to get ignored,” Drew said. “It’s a movie that, according to US copyright law, I can make money off of.”

Although the film was created as a clear parody, it still has faced more than its fair share of challenges in its distribution, even within the festival scene.

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While “The People’s Joker” was originally planned to be part of the Anomaly Film Festival in 2022, Drew had pulled it to both finish working on the film, and for more personal reasons after seeing the strong response out of TIFF.

“I was so overwhelmed and blindsided by the response out of TIFF. I didn’t know if I was ready to screen it that often in such a short amount of time,” Drew said. “Everyone assumed I had been sued or something, but it really was for those reasons.”

Coming from the contributions of over 100 artists with a mix of experience in film, “The People’s Joker” is a unique blend of aesthetics and styles unlike anything put on a screen before it. Being both crowdfunded and crowdsourced, the film combines the work of dozens of queer artists into one piece, a testament to the community Drew has built over the years.

“It was immediately something I wanted to show, it was unlike any movie I’d seen before,” said Adam Lubitow, the programming director and co-founder of Anomaly.

With an explicit focus on telling a queer story directly, “The People’s Joker” comes from a mix of experiences Drew and her co-writer, Bri LeRose, have had. Coming from everything from familial and romantic relationships to early childhood experiences and myriad fears stemming from Summer 2020, the film acts as a denouement to all of these experiences in many ways.

“In some capacity, it has the ability to let a different set of people see a trans story who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in that.” said Matt DeTurck, Anomaly’s creative director.

Being at a point where she is both happy with the film and feels able to take it to festivals, Drew was more than willing to bring it back to Anomaly this year.
“It was really just very expensive therapy, I think,” said Drew. “I was like ‘the world is ending and I haven’t made a movie,’ so I decided to make the loudest, most impossible movie ever. It took over my life, and changed it irrevocably.”

“The People’s Joker” will screen on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets here.

CM McCambridge is a freelance contributor to CITY. Feedback about this article can be directed to [email protected].
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