Tribeca Festival Review: Filmmaker Sav Rodgers Secures Legacy in LGBTQA+ Film Culture After Chasing Chasing Amy

Tribeca Festival Review: Filmmaker Sav Rodgers Secures Legacy in LGBTQA+ Film Culture After Chasing Chasing Amy

One person’s personal love letter to how society shaped their past relationships and development can ultimately become a public road map for other people’s future connections and evolution. That powerful journey of how someone’s growth influences the progress of another’s advancement is is chronicled in the new documentary, Chasing Chasing Amy.

The vital entry in the romantic LGBTQIA+ movie genre is inspired by first-time feature film director-producer, Sav Rodgers’ long-time devotion to honoring the legacy of Chasing Amy. The acclaimed 1997 narrative feature, which was in part inspired by events that happened to its writer-helmer, Kevin Smith helped Rodgers grew into his queerness, especially during his adolescence.

Chasing Chasing Amy follows the Rodgers’ life journey as a transgender man whose life was forever changed when he first saw the titular narrative feature at the age of 12. The romantic comedy-drama helped Rodgers grow into his queerness, which inspired him to to produce and direct a documentary that examines its role in LGBTQA+ movie culture.

During the process, the up-and-coming filmmaker even garnered Smith’s support. The latter provides commentary on his film’s lasting impact on not only his career, but also LGBTQA+ culture. He also discusses what inspired him to make the Golden Globe-nominated project, which was his third feature.

In the documentary, Rodgers also offers insight into his own personal life, including how Chasing Amy played a crucial role in his coming out and later transitioning. The helmer grew up in Kansas during the 1990s, and, like many gay teenagers at the time, felt like an outsider in his conservative community.

That all changed hen he saw Smith’s movie on video. The comedy-drama marked his first exposure to a proud lesbian character, Alyssa Smith, who was played by Joey Lauren Adams in a Golden Globe-nominated performance. She eventually has a love affair with a male comic book artist, Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck in one of his earliest roles).

In 2018 Rodgers gave a TED talk about the importance of Chasing Amy to young gay and lesbian people, and how it especially influenced his own sense of identity. That talk eventually reached Smith, his fellow filmmakers and the stars of the comedy-drama, and made them receptive to take part in the documentary.

That gave Rodgers the courage to begin production on Chasing Chasing Amy in 2019. During that initial filming process, he visited the locations in New Jersey that also inspired Smith’s plots, including a convenience store and diner.

The documentarian then traveled to Los Angeles to not only interview Smith, but also Adams and several of her co-stars, including Jason Lee and Guinevere Turner. The latter is know for co-writing the classic 1994 lesbian romantic comedy-drama, Go Fish, as well as the 2000 screen adaptation of American Psycho. Rogers also interviewed the producers of Chasing Amy, as well as gay critics, festival programmers and filmmakers, including Andrew Ahn, the director of Fire Island and Driveways.

As a first-time feature helmer and producer, Rodgers, along with the expertise of the movie’s editor, Sharika Ajaikumar, proves how vital nuanced filmmaking can be to authentically representing all LGBTQA+ communities. The editor of the documentary effortlessly weaves the director’s personal experiences with the various interviews and archival footage from the narrative feature and its promotional materials to support its important message.

Chasing Chasing Amy features positive social commentary on the importance of everyone’s stories being heard. The movie is an important reminder that no matter how drastically different they are from the traditional norms that society and even subcultures consistently emphasize, people should be cherished for their true selves.

For example, some of the interviewees in the documentary point out how the initial acclaim for Chasing Amy has become criticized recently. Some critics discount the fact that Alyssa is a proud lesbian at the beginning of the story but ultimately falling in love with Holden, despite his toxic masculinity.

When it’s suggest by some of the narrative film’s viewers that Adams’ character may actually be bisexual, the interviewees make the point that in some LGBTQA+ circles, bisexuality is often discounted. The communities view it as an excuse used by some people to not have to make a definitive choice about their sexuality. Despite that growing debate, the actress still celebrated her character’s strong will and determination to pursue what she wants in life, without the need of feeling confined by one particular label.

Chasing Chasing Amy‘s two parallel narratives of the interviewees analyzing the legacy of Smith’s movie and Rodgers exploring the effects of the film that changed the course of his life forever add context and emotional depth to the story. Rodgers shares the details about the early stages of his transition during one of his early interviews with Smith in 2019. He recounts how being bullied by several of his classmates who he thought were his friends when he was 12 made him realize he was different in his sexuality.

But discovering Chasing Amy made Rodgers feel more confident and comfortable with who he was then and who he is now, especially since meeting and marrying his wife,  Riley. He wasn’t afraid to initially define and continuously embrace their unique relationship.

However, as the production of Chasing Chasing Amy continues, Rodgers realizes that the legacy of the movie he has so long adore and his relationship with it might be changing. As a result, he begins questioning where that leaves him as a queer filmmaker.

Under the guidance of Rodgers’ nuanced filmmaking, Chasing Chasing Amy authentically represents the struggles and triumphs that are experienced in modern LGBTQA+ communities. Taking cues from the experiences of the narrative feature’s characters and filmmakers, the new documentary is a powerful exploration into how one person’s connections and evolution can help shape another’s identity.

While Rodgers now feels as though he doesn’t need the comfort of Smith’s movie as much as he used to in order to validate his identity, it will always be a powerful reminder of the documentarian’s new significant role in LGBTQA+ film culture. Chasing Chasing Amy now has a legacy of its own that will undoubtedly help influence the next generation in the LGBTQA+ and movie communities.

Grade: A-

Chasing Chasing Amy had its World Premiere on June 8 in the Viewpoints section at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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