Chasing Chasing Amy is an interesting documentary that takes a deep dive into the complex legacy of Kevin Smith’s 1997 indie film Chasing Amy, its effect on queer people, and its life-saving impact on director Sav Rodgers.
The original film is a romantic comedy starring Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee. The film is about a male comic artist (Affleck) who falls in love with a lesbian/sexually fluid woman (Adams), to the displeasure of his best friend (Lee). The film was originally inspired by a brief scene in the cult 90s lesbian film Go Fish. In Guinevere Turner’s Go Fish, one of the lesbian characters imagines her friends passing judgment on her for selling out by sleeping with a man. Smith was dating Adams at the time he was writing the Chasing Amy script, and the film was also partly inspired by her.
Chasing Amy and Go Fish were part of a wave of 90s indie films coming out of Hollywood. These two were different in that they both made money and starred queer female characters. Prior to that, queer women on the celluloid screen were few and far between, and those that were featured were often villains, murderers or other unsavory characters. Barbara Stanwyck was the first major Hollywood actress to play an out lesbian character, a brothel owner in 1962s Walk on the Wild Side.
Chasing Amy has a mixed legacy for queer audiences. Many women – especially queer female teenagers in suburban USA – welcomed Adams’ refreshing portrayal of pretty, sexy, happy-go-lucky Alyssa, free of any stereotypical lesbian characteristics. Sexually fluid women had not often featured in films before and that was also welcome. Some feel the film to be bi-phobic. Others felt that the intimation that Affleck’s character Holden could convert Alyssa to be straight, reinforced a stereotype that lesbian women were just women who hadn’t met the right man – the tired heterosexual conversion narrative.
Chasing Chasing Amy director Sav Rodgers was a young teenager in Kansas when Chasing Amy was released. Sav connected with the film and watched it every day for months on end. He remains obsessed with the film and to date has watched it over 200 times. Filmed over a couple of years, his documentary analyses the film’s legacy, combining interviews with Kevin Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, and Guinevere Turner with archive footage, as well as documenting his own journey through the film’s production, which includes his transition from lesbian woman to trans man as well as his relationship with his girlfriend Riley. Rodgers’ passion for the film and his documentary is infectious – this rarely comes across in documentary filmmaking – and the result is that he gets a lot out of the generous content of his interviewees. Adams, in particular, opens up in a way few Hollywood interviewees do, variously detailing the misogyny in Hollywood back then, her slightly toxic relationship with Smith, and the association with Harvey Weinstein as producer of the film. It’s interesting to note that it’s the men associated with the film – Affleck, Smith and Weinstein – who gained the most success and career advancement from it, whereas the women who were key to its success – Adams and Turner – gained little.
Rodgers’ film is a love letter to film-making, his wife, and to Chasing Amy. His charismatic energy is infectious. Keep an eye on him.
Chasing Chasing Amy is screening at Tribeca, Provincetown, and Frameline
Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah