The Alexander Ball Documentary Review

‘The Alexander Ball’ from Purple Carrot Entertainment is an important documentary which deserves a huge audience, and much more screen time than the current 22 minutes. Full feature film? Reality series? It doesn’t matter, we just need more!

'The Alexander Ball' - Image © Somefx

Set in Meanjin (the First Nations name for Brisbane) the documentary follows a Ballroom House, made up of queer people of colour, mainly but not exclusively from First Nations and Pasifika cultures. The heart of their House is House Mother Ella Ganza, a trans woman/Femme Queen (the Ballroom term for transgender woman). The backbone is Joshua Taliani, a queer Indigenous man, who is the House Father.

Ballroom culture emerged from Brooklyn, New York, as a space for Black and Latinx queer people who felt excluded from the more dominant white gay culture. As Taliani said in the Q&A following the documentary’s screening, “In mob you experience homophobia, in the gay scene you experience racism, and then you find Ballroom and you find your place.”

The documentary provides a brief window into the world not only of Meanjin Ballroom – and the way Australian Ballroom is shaping a culture of its own, standing on the shoulders of the American originators – but it provides a glimpse into the lives of trans women, especially those of colour.

One young Femme Queen addressed the audience when asked about the importance of the film to her. She said that as a trans woman of colour, getting out of bed each day is an achievement. The suicide rate, and the daily attacks, make being trans and a person of colour in the community immensely challenging. Ballroom has provided her with a community, with a mentor, with people to protect her. A common theme of the night was the need for us all to protect trans women, everywhere and all the time.

Lest this review sound dour or heavy, the film is not. It is extraordinary, a showcase of talent, of resilience, and of joy. As a cisgender, white woman, this isn’t my space. I am, as one speaker said, “a visitor in a space that was made by our Femme Queens of colour”. But I want to know more about it. I want to know more about these wonderful, exciting people, and the lives they lead.

Go and support these important, rarely heard voices – and let’s hope more screen time is coming soon!

‘The Alexander Ball’ is on SBS On Demand now, airing live on SBS VICELAND and NITV on 11 August.


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