Leave it On the Floor

I am a late adopter to Netflix and I am not a big movie-goer, so with the exception of my DVD and Blu-Ray purchases (thanks to my all-knowing Amazon recommendations), I don’t always catch a movie’s hype on the first wave.  In the case of independent films with LGBT themes and black characters, you almost have to know somebody involved in the production to be able to support it in a timely manner.

Leave It on the Floor nearly eluded me entirely.  I do remember seeing a short teaser trailer, or perhaps even a crowd-funding campaign a few years ago, and then nothing.  Thank goodness I found this film among my Netflix recommendations.

In short, Leave It on the Floor is the musical story of Brad, a young gay man who is kicked out of the house by his homophobic mother and finds community and camaraderie in the House of Eminence, the underdogs of Los Angeles’ underground ballroom scene.  Brad finds friendship, roles models, and love in the house.

However, like any musical, there’s more to the story than that.  The house mother, Queef Latina, is an aging, fading star, much like Grizabella in Cats.  Queef is in love with a man who is doing time and their story, though secondary, is quite compelling and sad.  Queef is played by Miss Barbie Q, a professional drag queen in her own right.

Brad’s main antagonists are Carter and Princess Eminence.  Rather than spoil it, I’ll just say that behind every Romeo and Juliet story is a hating old Queen.  And we as viewers love to hate them.

I have to reiterate that this film is a musical.  You will forget that it’s a musical until they start singing and you’re like dang, I totally forgot this was a musical.  Do I feel like watching a musical today?

Please feel like it.  Please watch this film.

It’s not without its issues, of course.  It’s been done on a shoestring budget and it shows at times.  The actors are not all seasoned veterans, but they are worth the support.  I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Ephraim Sykes, whose portrayal of Brad was so spot-on, so on point that he actually seemed familiar.  I am looking forward to him in many, many other productions.  His duet with Andre Myles as Carter in “Don’t Jump Baby” was absolutely beautiful.

I believe that we have entered into another epoch of great black gay art, but we have to work to ensure that this era is here to stay.  We’ve got to do better to spread the word about our stories through all means at our disposal: social media, our websites, our Amazon reviews, and just plain picking up the phone to talk to our friends about a great film we just watched.

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak directly to the filmmakers of this project as well as any others out there considering making a black gay film.  Sheldon Larry, the director of Leave It on the Floor, and Glenn Gaylord, the writer, have done a good job.  They do not lack the cultural competence to tell this story.  They don’t whitewash this story.  It is just as gritty as any other black gay work I have seen.  But perhaps they didn’t have proper street team in place to adequately promote this film.  I should have read dozens of blog entries about this film as it came out.  I should have seen it screened at my local black pride activities.  I should have seen the actors as guest speakers at a National Black Justice Coalition event.

Yes, we as artists must market broadly, but we must also market efficiently.  Let us all do a better job at looking for the opinion molders who can take our projects to higher levels.  Let us work harder to find the projects we want to support.  And of course, let’s create the avenues that these projects need to succeed.

I am very grateful to have seen Leave It on the Floor and to have welcomed Brad and all the other characters into my life.  I salute the filmmakers for being part of the movement to tell black LGBT stories authentically and beautifully.    I give the film five stars – maybe not for technical achievement, but what the film means to me as a fellow artist in the movement.

You can purchase Leave it on the Floor on Amazon, where you can also download the soundtrack.