‘The Demons of Dorothy’: A Subversive, Demon-Haunted Rumination on Transphobia Streams in Unifrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival
Alexis Langlois won both the Junior Jury Award and the Silver Pardino in the Leopards of Tomorrow section at the Locarno Intl. Film Festival in 2021 with his meta, genre-bending fantasy short “The Demons of Dorothy.” Now, the film looks to close out an impressive international run with its streaming premiere at Unifrance Rendez-Vous’ MyFrenchFilmFestival.
Semi-autobiographical, the bathed-in-pink, over-the-top action short features demons, hallucinations and blood-thirsty biker lesbians that fight against the patriarchy. In the short, Dorothy (Justine Langlois), the film’s protagonist, is a queer filmmaker struggling against censorship, closed-minded financing bodies and her own personal insecurities. When stumped by a screenplay, her demons take physical form and torment her through the night, offering to make her wildest dreams come true if only she will start making more mainstream films.
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Melodrama and Les Films du Poisson produced the short, which featured a cast of Langlois regulars who are quickly becoming regulars of the French queer film scene. Langlois wrote the short, but not without significant input from regular collaborators, particularly co-writer Carlotta Coco.
Langlois spoke with Variety ahead of the film’s MyFrenchFilmFestival streaming premiere.
Credit: Melodrama, Les Films du Poisson
Congratulations on all the attention your film got over the last year, especially the wins at Locarno! Were you able to travel much with the film at all?
Yes, I actually did get the chance to go to Locarno and the film went to London to the Sicilia Queer Filmfest and Fringe! as the movie traveled without me as well.
Does this film work out some of your own frustrations concerning censorship, funding and expectations that you’ve experienced as a filmmaker?
Yes, absolutely. Dorothy’s story is about the financing campaign of my last movie, “Terror, Sisters!,” and written for my close friends. It’s the story about how these four transgender friends met and plan to avenge themselves against transphobia that they face daily. Each of them imagines a storyline that we included. Like four separate movies. It’s an activist comedy with a hint of revenge movie. Obviously, several film commissions to which we showed the storyline responded badly to the project. They didn’t like the film’s aesthetic or the political dimension. Sometimes, those organizations even demonstrated transphobia. Dorothy humorously recounts all the comments these straights have on queer and political cinema.
Your film reflects on the struggle many filmmakers face in trying to maintain their original voice while also catering to the mainstream. I wonder, have you found yourself making compromises to make more “mainstream” films in the past?
I don’t think I’ve ever compromised. I do now understand that to tell the stories I want, I have to write them in a way in which reality is recognized. In general, it tends to go better when the story is grounded in some ways. Sometimes in France we don’t really like genre films so much.
How have you seen audience preferences evolve since you started making your own films?
Since I started making short films a lot of things have changed, and that’s great. There are plenty of queer and alternative filmmakers speaking out. We feel that our community is finding the means to tell its own stories and that’s incredible.
Can you talk a bit about designing the sets for this short and what was required to make them a reality?
Everything was done in the studio. It was very important for me to give the film a “dollhouse” dimension to embrace the dreamlike nature of the story. Thanks to the incredible work of the decoration team, particularly of decoration manager Barnabé d’Hauteville, but also of the cinematographer Marine Atlan, we have created childish and scary settings with expressionist pink lights. A mix between everyday life and magic. A kind of queer “Wizard of Oz.”
Similarly, the makeup and special effects are outstanding. To whom does the credit go for that work?
We invented make-up with Frédéric Lainé from Atelier 69. We imagined fairy-tale witches and demons in a contemporary universe. His demons have access to cosmetic surgery. In their world, the more successful they are, the more their skin tense, on the other hand, those at the bottom of the demonic social scale have the skin that hangs down. It was important for me that there was a storytelling aspect, but also a grotesque mix with references to botox, because we are in Dorothy’s head.
What are you working on now? Any plans to shoot a feature-length film in the future?
Yes, I’m working on a feature film that I should be shooting at the start of next year, “Les reines du drame.” It’s a queer romantic comedy that tells the love story between two French singers over 50. Their history is battered by the ups and downs of their careers. Even if they are French, the model singers are American, it’s a bit like if Mariah Carey had a romance with Courtney Love.
Credit: Nicolas Fontas
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