Indo-Canadian filmmaker Rama Rau’s latest documentary has won a unique accolade even before its release, as it has been chosen for the prestigious slot as the opening film for the 2016 edition of Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary film festival.
While Rau’s previous film, No Place to Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story also had its world premiere at Hot Docs last year, her newest venture - League of Exotique Dancers – is an honour at another level. The Toronto-based filmmaker expressed her pleasure after the announcement: “It’s really exciting to be selected for the opening night.”
The 11-day festival, which begins April 28, will feature 232 titles, from as many as 51 countries. Hot Docs described Rau’s film as “a testament to an empowering and timeless form of artistic expression and sexuality”. The film “celebrates the legends and pioneers of burlesque as they prepare to give a live performance at the Legends of Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.”
Watch | Director Rama Rau talks about ‘League of Exotique Dancers’
Rau, originally from Chennai, seized upon the idea for this film during a visit to Las Vegas for research, as she “found out that there are older women, who used to be legends during the ‘60s, ‘70s, who still come there. There’s this Burlesque Hall of Fame and there are inductees every year. I wanted to tell that story. I didn’t want to tell a story that’s set in the past. I didn’t want nostalgia. I wanted the present. So, it was about their journey back to the stage,” she said, in an interview.
But she also wanted to visit these dancers at their homes, as she said, “I decided to tell their personal stories, day-to-day life and then contrast it with the glamour of the stage.” That involved travelling across North America.
American burlesque was a sort of variety show, with performers dressed in lavish, often garish costumes, that they usually stripped out of during the course of the act.
While this film will be celebrated on opening night in Toronto, Rau isn’t too confident about it getting a release in her native country: “I think it’ll be hard to get a screening in India because there’s a lot of swearing, there’s a lot of nudity, there’s a lot of sex and I think the censors will faint when they see this. Because it’s burlesque, you need it, can’t shy away from it.”