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In Russia, Queendom Jenna Marvin is a twenty-one year old queer artist who fears no one. She makes fantastical clothes using found objects, make-up and tape in such eccentric amounts they defy belief; from them she often creates imaginary costumes of aliens that can be seen on the streets of Moscow as if they have just been teleported from another planet into Russian reality. Some are playful while others carry political messages about things that matter to her most. Often people want to know more about her performances as a drag queen in public places, and others hate her so much that police sometimes have to remove her by force. Sometimes the whole thing is captured on film which conveys how silent presence of homophobic animus by strangers affects the innocent girl through now hating looks even when it leads to cruel treatment meted upon Jenna by different individuals including a security agent in uniform. However, Jenna is expelled from beauty school after participating together with other students in a protest that was taped with colors of the Russian flag forcing her back home where she has only her grandparents left and where she must survive alone.

Agniia Galdanova’s portrait empathizes with the young artist during one crossroad period in life. One wrong step and you are an enemy of state No leave without delay any longer would lead to inscribing for war against Ukraine. In “Queendom,” Galdanova depicts how this country remains hostile towards queer communities using several experiences involving Jenna herself. According to this documentary, protesting can get a person penalized, artistic creations like those done by Jenny can be grounds for punishment as well as walking around at grocery or public places dressed up like some odd characters from outer space? Every outdoor scene comes with a hint of danger but mostly Jenna attracts puzzled stares from strangers. When it comes down to people like Jenna prancing around half-naked in public wearing colorful costumes designed conspicuously enough outside this individualistic society within his/her everyday attire; such a person is not exactly what you would call common.

It’s good that “Queendom” isn’t one more boring documentary about an exciting subject matter. The film is going to show her life with its ups and downs including some of the performances made for the camera, where she is able to visually express herself in her distinctive style. These are sequences in which Jenna stands in front of a group of faceless figures dressed in red, white and blue clothes as they surround, suffocate and bury her when the school announces its decision about expelling Jenna or gets dressed as mosquito wandering on unknown desert-like surroundings. These scenes can be funny or serious, like when Jenna wraps up her body, head to toe in gold lamé to wander a desolate theme park and halfheartedly ride one of the rundown attractions or when she emerges out of a cocoon of what looks like saran wrap, gasping for air as it seems she might be in danger of getting stuck in Russia at a time of war.

By utilizing wonderful close-ups, Queendom Galdanova and cinematographer Ruslan Fedotov have skillfully showcased Jenna’s performance with its intricate make-up lines and exquisite costume designs which dazzle the viewer. You would think there were occasional music videos on low-budget films of Jenna taken in public places.

Magadan is an empty place that used to be a Soviet-era labour camp from a different chapter in Russian history. However, there are no safe spaces for Jenna, whether it’s a metropolis or village because Russia has been punishing but not protecting its LGBTIQ citizens. Bold and brave as her performances that take her creations to streets where she may face rejection by people who appear in this documentary so daringly.

She risks everything bodily while protesting but she can’t remain so reticent to reveal about herself such fact is torn between love for grandparents and frustration at their reaction towards her. They sometimes do not completely understand the purpose of art, why shouldn’t she care about safety? They make her change just to protect herself, Queendom and many times over Jenna has had to say again that it was impossible. The struggle to be accepted as a queer person is fought on many fronts, be that internal, societal, and sometimes the most painful of all, with one’s family. Though her protest art is purely hers alone; still every story is inclusive in terms of self-discovery and realization of one’s genuine abilities.

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