Camila José Donoso's Casa Roshell (2017), which is receiving an exclusive global online premiere on MUBI, is showing from June 15 - July 15, 2018 as a Special Discovery
Mexico’s “Fiestas Patrias” (Patriotic Holidays) were in full swing when I walked into the club Roshell for the first time. I got to this private transvestites club through a friend's invitation. When I met Roshell Terranova and Liliana Alba, as well as Paula Delicia and Lía García, I felt captured by them. And as if they were a magnet, I felt that place was a sort of limbo. Time had a different pace in the club, its own rhythm, and everything seemed to belong to a different time: the generational mix of people and the music, the dark room, the melodramatic tone of the seduction games, so Mexican and so indebted to the language of soap operas, the love dramas, the questions about identity—all that appeared in front of me like an oasis, a shelter in the darkness to lock yourself in, isolating yourself from a reality you want to leave outside (although I am not sure if successfully, as the life we wanted to leave outside was coming back all the time). Between the karaoke, the idea of doing something with them, my new friends, was born.
One year later, I returned to the club already with the firm idea of making a film. I spent six months writing the script, and then, as if numerology had something to do, we shot the whole thing in six days. The girls performed, rehearsed, and were accomplices in the mise en scène of the movie. They performed themselves, and performed other friends that, for privacy reasons, could not be on camera. Others also asked me to be dubbed, thinking that perhaps someone could recognize their voices. It was a cathartic exercise, not an individual but a collective one.
The film takes place in one night. Like a trance, many characters, transvestites and trans come and go in front of the lens. The camera never leaves the four walls of this house and stays with them, listening to their confessions and following their desires. The stories are infinite and we only have the possibility to see and hear fragments of the lives of these divas, these muses. And also to know the men, the gallants of the club, or as Roshell wanted to name them, the “transfans,” in order to avoid the word “jackals” that is widely used with a pejorative tone to refer to queer taste. Everything starts slow, because there’s no rush, it’s a ritual, and when the make-up is ready and shining, the party commences.
Feminism is a refuge for me, a place to rest. That’s the reason why creating a community (among activists, comrades, allies) is a vital necessity. A place that doesn’t reproduce the same vicious violence that impregnates the life of trans, transvestites and women in Latin America. And especially thinking of Casa Roshell, as Mexico is a country where death surrounds our practices and our daily lives. I profoundly admire what Roshell Terranova does, and all the colleagues that have succeeded at this act of resistance, just like that: by being friends, caring about each other, loving.