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Did you know that there was such a thing as the International Gay Rodeo Association?
Probably not, but filmmaker Matt Livadary did, and his new documentary chronicles a recent season of the organization founded in 1985. Concentrating on a handful of its participants as they struggle with both professional and personal issues, Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo delivers a compelling portrait of this little-known subculture. Currently playing the festival circuit—it was recently showcased at Los Angeles’ Outfest—the film should resonate with its target audience
Among the film’s subjects is Wade Earp—yup, he’s a distant relative of legendary lawman Wyatt—who, with the aid of his trusty if aged steed Digit, has amassed some 200 buckles throughout his lengthy career, even though his goal of winning “All Around Cowboy” at the World Gay Rodeo Finals has long eluded him. He has a moving backstory as well; HIV-positive, he was infected by his late partner of five years who never told him of his condition. “I live and breathe cowboy…I just happen to be gay,” he declares.
Also profiled is Char Duran, a lesbian bull rider who’s yet to win a buckle despite suffering a series of injuries that cause no end of distress to her mother and girlfriend. Competing in a category not open to women at conventional rodeos, she displays indomitable courage and determination.
The other subjects include Chris Sherman, a 26-year-old cowboy who refuses to leave his native Oklahoma despite the many examples of prejudice he suffers; IGRA organizer Travis Gardner, a transsexual who describes his difficult journey of becoming a man; and cowgirl Ty Teigen, whose battle with ovarian cancer fuels the film’s most affecting moments.
Although the IGRA is open to competitors both gay and straight, the former don’t find themselves particularly welcome at other rodeo events, with the level of discrimination summed up by one good ole boy who sniffs, “They’re not cowboys.” Many arenas won’t host their events, and in recent years their membership has dropped and many chapters have shut down.
Revolving in typical documentary fashion around the inevitable drama of who will win the year’s championship—Wade’s primary competition is the long-reigning champ David Renier, so handsome and dashing he could be a pin-up boy—the film is not particularly groundbreaking in its style. But it fulfills its admirable goal of being an eye-opener for those who never even dreamed that a gay rodeo existed.
Production: Go West
Director/screenwriter/director of photography: Matt Livadary
Producers: Erin Krozek, Matt Livadary
Editors: Matt Livadary, Tim Strube
Composer: Joachim Cooder
No rating, 93 min.
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