Stuart Sox’s documentary, To Decadence With Love, takes us to the infamous New Orleans queer celebration known as Southern Decadence. Taking place on Labor Day weekend, Southern Decadence allows the New Orleans community of queer drag queens and burlesque performers to take the stage in one of the year’s largest celebrations of self-expression and “gender fuckery art.”
Director Sox primarily follows stars Laveau Contraire and Franky Canga, who give us a behind-the-scenes look at their lives. Both Laveau and Franky have similar stories. Both being queer were looking for a community…a home…that accepted them, was like them, and offered a venue to express themselves through performance. Though Laveau and Franky arrived in New Orleans separately, yet together, they’ve become a mainstay of Southern Decadence. For both, drag and Decadence were ways to express their identities freely and in uniquely creative ways.
Colorful and full of energy, To Decadence With Love offers an extensive collection of performances from Laveau, Franky, and its large cast of larger-than-life performers. Each show is a mix of drag performances and burlesque. Every piece is full of energy and deeply personal, whether it’s a lip-synch, burlesque striptease, or song. Every show turns into a beacon of positivity as the performers gather in a circle and shout the show’s mantra, “F**k ’em in the heart”—Ok, adult positivity.
“…one of the year’s largest celebrations of self-expression and ‘gender fuckery art.’”
New Orleans is just as big a star as the performers living in it. The Big Easy is one of the most significant safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as making the artform economically viable. In between performances, Sox includes performer interviews talking about how they got into the business, the life events that brought them to New Orleans, and a great deal of reflection about the queer and drag scene in New Orleans. Many feel that it’s not perfect but definitely heading in the right direction for this highly supportive society.
The film culminates with a special show called Colors. The show not only spotlights the BIPOC performers, but several participants take the opportunity to weave their personal cultural and racial struggles into their performances. Yes, even the white-dominated world of drag needs a giant splash of color. Laveau talks in depth about how the LGBTQIA+ experience has been cloaked in darkness for a long time. Pride events, like Decadence, bring the community together to hold hands in support, have a voice, and glimpse into the future of queer people.
It’s no secret that the drag community has come under fire recently, To Decadence With Love presents one of the most positive and uplifting portrayals of this mostly misunderstood society.
To Decadence With Love is screening on Starz and all other VOD platforms for Pride Month.
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