Set The Scene: Our Review of ‘I Hate New York’

Set The Scene: Our Review of ‘I Hate New York’

Ten years is a long time for a lot to happen or for nothing to happen at all. That’s what Gustavo Sanchez’ I Hate New York feels like as it captures the lives of three trans women and people under the queer umbrella. All of them, by the way, worked as either hosts or musicians in New York after the height of the Club Kid scene. Some scenes feel big, like when a queer person wishes that everyone can work in New York as musicians, as they do. Others feel impressionistic, like Sophia Lamar doing her hair and realizing that it’s better dirty.

I Hate New York eventually makes a mostly successful claim about the importance of people like Lamar. Before going on stage, she tells the camera that’s she’s a triple threat, a claim that other talking heads repeat. What cements those claims are archive footage of her during the 80s and 90s, when the scene was swinging. She hops on fences with an outlandish outfit, looking as fierce as she does now. Her resilience through, ahem, four decades makes audiences feel as if the scene is as alive as she is. That there’s nothing to mourn if she’s still standing and hopping.

I Hate New York has some of the problems like those other documentaries have. Mind you, thinks critique is coming from a guy who has his own inner saboteur. But the deliberate obtuseness of people who don’t want to leave the scene is inherently occasionally frustrating. Some of their work is, again, an acquired taste, but others are relatively mainstream, like Lamar’s urine fountain. Not everybody wants to be famous, sure, since everyone knows the negative consequences of such luck.

However, there’s this contradictory and frustrating idea of making a documentary about people who don’t want their ideas to proliferate. That or the movie portrays them that way. Other problems arise in depicting its most famous subject, Amanda Lepore. Using the same camera to depict her and everyone else with the same camera for a decade is a choice. But the closeups on Lepore feel like the movie objectifies her more than most visual depictions of her.

But I Hate New York finds the purpose within that obtuseness. The musician I talked about earlier eventually comes out as T De Long. He’s a trans man who enters a relationship with a trans woman activist and musician, Chloe Dzubilo. There’s an emotional resonance just on T’s transition, and there’s more of that as the film captures their story. Audiences can Google what happens to them, but seeing their relationship unfold here just shows why Sanchez filmed all of this. Stories of trans people, their heartbreaks and their survival, need to be on camera before they fade away to the ether.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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