Riot Acts

Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music Performance. DVD. Dir. Madsen Minax. Actor Slash Model, 2009. Distributed by Outcast Films, 2010. 72 min.

How about a film that examines the creative work and challenges of a bunch of trans and queer musicians, a slice of queer American pie, served up hot with a generous portion of performance footage. That is Riot Acts, which opens with the statement: “As a transperson, we have stories that we’re not seeing and we need to see those. As a human, we have stories and we need to share them.” The stories touch a wide range of issues, including body image, songwriting, audiences, the effects of transitioning on voice, “drag,” and ultimately how gender performance blends into stage performance.

The producers of Riot Acts are Madsen Minax and Simon Strikeback of Actor Slash Model, a Chicago bluegrass duo. Minax also directs the documentary. As insiders in the transgender and gender variant music world in the U.S. and Canada, they were uniquely positioned to create this film, which is not so much an educational piece on transgender folk, but a presentation of the musical and personal journeys of the many featured musicians.

There is a rich selection of performances by The Degenerettes, Lipstick Conspiracy, Systyr Act, The Shondes, The Cliks, Trannysaurus Sex, and Novice Theory, among others. The many talking heads include Ryka Aoki de la Cruz (LA), Venus DeMars (Minneapolis), Geo Wyeth (NYC), Anderson Toone (SF) and Katastrophe (SF).

Riot Acts provides a candid, authentic look into the challenges and delights of performing gender variant music, and in the end, it is ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC in this “Transfabulous Rockumentary,” which should find a home in all libraries.


Reviewed by, Morgan Gwenwald
Sojourner Truth Library
SUNY New Paltz


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