Talking With the Filmmaking Sisters of "All Over Me", Part II
by Erika Milvy
[Erica Milvy continues her conversation with Alex and Sylvia Sichel.
Read the first part here]
indieWIRE: In your filmmakers’ statement in the press notes, you write
that “everybody secretly knows that your best friend was your first true
love” but I really thought this was a film about one girl who will grow
up to be a lesbian, do you think of this as a gay film or is this
Sylvia Sichel: It’s not everybody’s story but it’s every woman’s story
on a certain level. I’m not saying every girl has kissed her best friend
but I do think there’s this place where the boundaries don’t exist.
iW: I think the physical relationship had a different meaning for Claude than it did for Ellen.
Sylvia: Well, at the beginning of the film, this is the place their
friendship goes and they don’t really think about it. Its important that
they don’t think about it because if they thought about it, it would
seem gross or weird.
But Claude does start thinking about it and wanting more from it and
Ellen can’t look at it, can’ t say this is part of me.
Alex Sichel: There is an erotic element in that kind of relationship
that we don’t want to look at. Your best friend is someone you want to
possess in some way, she has better skin than you or she has the hair
that you wish you had, so do you want to be her? Or do you want to make
love to her? What is it that you want from her? It’s a very confusing
dynamic and in that way it’s the first intimate relationship that you
have after your family. So were not saying that everyone is a lesbian
but there is this kind of particularity to that relationship that does
seem to happen to a lot of very different people who grow up to
categorize themselves in a lot of different ways.
Sylvia. But on another level, it is a film about a lesbian. Well, it’s a
film about Claude and she figures out she’s a lesbian. Obviously Claude
figuring out that she’s a lesbian and coming out is very important to
Claude and therefore to the movie, but we never set out to make a
lesbian movie, that was never our intention. Our intention was to
excavate that relationship and the sexuality in that relationship and
then Claude kind of came out to us.
Alex: We didn’t want to make a coming of age film or a coming out film. We
were really scared of going into making one of those films. It was
important to us that young lesbians, especially, see this movie because
it was hard to come out.
Sylvia: You don’t see girls who deal with their sexuality much in film
Alex: But the other part that is tricky is the words “lesbian film” for
me, of course it’s a movie about a lesbian and that’s really important,
but a lesbian film — what is that? Is that a genre? It’s a very
important marketing concept and that’s not a small thing because this
movie was made possible by the success of “Go Fish” and “The Incredible Adventures of Two Girls in Love" and that’s why we were able to make this
Sylvia: If the film is about women, then men won’t go see it and if the film
is about lesbians then straight women won’t go see it and its
depressing, I guess, that a lesbian movie can’t be a movie about the
human experience. We feel that there are so many themes running through
this movie aside from Claude coming out as a lesbian.
Alex: For me, growing up and being out as a lesbian I’ve always had this
weird experience — but maybe this is too personal — I’ve always had
this experience of being so woman-oriented and then suddenly, I had this
moment where I felt this complete separation: its like “no, you’re a
lesbian, we’re straight.” And I’ve always been really surprised by that
because I’ve always felt that, I mean, it sounds so dorky, but “we’re
all women, lets all be together.” So to me that’s really important
because to me there’s a shared female experience and I feel like there’s
room in there for lesbian and straight female experience and that
doesn’t always have to be separated out. And its important to us that
adult women, whether they’re lesbian or straight, open up to this
experience that they might have locked away from when things weren’t so
Sylvia: Every woman has some kind of erotic experience with another woman
whether it was a crush on their teacher, whatever it was, and we really
shut that out. So that’s what I mean by this line were trying to ride,
to market a complicated movie.
iW: Now Alex brought up that she’s a lesbian and the fact that Sylvia has not mentioned anything makes me think that you’re straight, which makes me think its even more incredible that you could write a script like
Sylvia: Why? I have problems with that statement.
iW. It’s from the point of view of this girl, it’s not from the point of view of her friend?
[Deep disappointment by both Sylvia and Alex that the interviewer has
not gotten it]
Sylvia: But that’s the whole thing we’ve been talking about. I had a best
friend and she was like the love of my life at the time. Well I guess I
have a problem with this more as a writer than as a straight girl. I
don’t mean to be flip because I think its a big issue when white people
write about the black experience, I do think that these are real issues
and I’m not trying to say why don’t you get it? I’m saying is that
personally when I was growing up and now my friendships with women have
always been erotic and its not this big leap to
me that she fell in love with her friend and thought she was a lesbian.
iW: The movie also has a killing in it, a gay bashing, why did you include that?
Alex: I was going to meet Sylvia to talk about the script and I saw this
flyer in my neighborhood. I live in Chelsea which is this very out gay
neighborhood. It was a flyer about this guy who had just gotten murdered
and it was called a hate crime and I completely flipped out and we
thought, what would happen if you were 15 years old , would you hide
under your bed for the rest of your life ?
iW: I see this film as similar to “Two Girls in Love”, not just as part of
the lesbian niche but as part of a more specific, very new genre of baby
dyke films about this new breed of lesbians who are actually much more
comfortable with their sexuality and are coming out in a more
politically aware climate. Relative to past representations such as
Shirley McLaines in “The Children’s Hour,” Claude really seems to have
so much less angst about coming out.
Alex: Definitely, and again I have to go back a little bit to the music
scene for that because I find a lot of power coming from that scene in
terms of “This is who I am, no apology”. Also in some way it has
something to do with fantasy for us because we’re not teenagers and this
is maybe the way we wish it had been. Not that I think that its easy for
Claude but she does come out when she’s 15 which I didn’t do, and I
think that’s really great and Claude is a kind of hero to me in that
way. I often look at Claude and think well she had the guts to listen to
herself. And that’s really amazing. so I definitely aspire to be her.