The Queen, Dir. Frank Simon, USA, 1968, 16mm transferred to SD video, 68 mins
Director Frank Simon’s rarely screened documentary follows Jack, a 24-year-old drag queen named Flawless Sabrina; a mistress of ceremonies for the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant. As the competition approaches, the glamour is overshadowed by tensions between contestants, among them the legendary New York drag queen Crystal LaBeija. The judges, including artist Andy Warhol, actress and model Edie Sedgwick and writer Terry Southern, have a hard time deciding on the winner.
Fifty years after its success at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, the year the annual festival was beset with protesters, we screen The Queen. Pre-Stonewall and an extraordinary document of its time, Simon’s documentary cut a path for films such as Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning (1991).