Big Freedia, the Queen of Bounce, is the subject of our new feature-length documentary, Freedia Got a Gun, which streams at Outfest 2020 starting Aug 27th. I had a chance to talk to film’s producer and director Chris McKim about the making of the documentary, his relationship with Freedia, and how we can watch it…
JAMES: Freedia Got a Gun tells the story of her brother’s death at the hands of gun violence, but it’s more than just her personal story… tell me about the issues that are brought up and and how you went about making the documentary…
CHRIS: For decades, New Orleans has sat high atop the list of America’s most dangerous cities with gun violence just one of many problems disproportionately affecting the Black community and fueled by systemic racism. These stories barely register in the media while mass shootings dominate national headlines. Sharing Freedia’s story in the face of tragedy became one small step toward correcting that.
Freedia took us to the front line, and the film became a portrait of strength and resilience in the city; educators, activists and families fighting for the survival of their community and a better future for their children.
As the national conversation turns toward defunding police, the film shines a light on efforts in the community that could benefit from that funding, Violence mediation groups such as CeaseFire and Peace Keepers are actively working to stop violence before it happens rather than simply locking up people after the fact.
Mental heath is frequently overlooked, but PTSD is a cause & effect of violence as well as a result of systemic racism.
JSJ: You’ve worked with Freedia for many years now, first on the show and now this. How has your relationship evolved and what did you learn about her working with her on the documentary?
CM: Freedia and I’ve been friends & collaborators since 2014 when I started working on the 3rd season of her show. We’ve spent a lot of time together in all those years, bouncing across America on tour, home in New Orleans, jumping the line into Berghain. We’ve developed a bond and trust which was so important in making the documentary.
In the film, Freedia talks about the friends, family and acquaintances she’s lost to gun violence over the years, a list that reached 60-70 people. That’s an extraordinary amount of loss by any means, and it’s what stands out the most when considering what I learned about her while making the documentary. Unfortunately, I also learned that it’s a level of loss not uncommon in the city.
JSJ: Charles Blow (New York Times) is both an Executive Producer and Commenter… Such an interesting man. How did he come aboard and what does he bring to the project?
CM: In the midst of editing, we stepped back to consider what might be missing from the film. While the personal stories are deeply rooted in New Orleans, the issues around gun violence, including systemic racism, are a national problem. We shared a cut of the film with Charles and he agreed to come aboard. He brought new layers to the film and helped tie our local stories to the larger national narrative.
JSJ: You’ll be a on panel discussion about the movie, tell me about it. Who, when, where…. And what can we expect?
CM: Freedia, Dr Ashonta Wyatt, a New Orleans educator/activist in the film, and I recorded a discussion moderated by Tre’vell Anderson which will be attached to the film as it streams through AFI Docs virtual film festival on June 20 for 24 hours beginning at 12:01 AM EST. Tickets available HERE.
JSJ: And finally, how can we see Freedia Got a Gun? How will you be promoting it (and how have promotion plans changed due to the coronavirus?) And wha’s next for you?
CM: It’s exciting that Freedia Got a Gun will debut at AFI Docs, but only time will tell where it goes next. Both Freedia and Wojnarowicz: F—k You F-ggot F—ker, which I was making at the same time, were supposed to premiere in April at the Tribeca Film Festival before the Covid curtain dropped. Wojnarowicz, about 80s queer artist/activist David Wojnarowicz, is on the sidelines when David’s words are most relevant and needed, and I’m looking forward to both of these films reaching wider audiences.
JSJ: THANKS, CHRIS! I can’t wait to see it! And condragulations, hon! And once again, you get your tickets to AFI Docs virtual film festival on June 20 for 24 hours beginning at 12:01PM EST HERE.
Watch the trailer below:
Outfest creates visibility to diverse LGBTQIA+ stories and empowers storytellers, building empathy to drive meaningful social change.
You will have the opportunity to begin watching films released every day over 11 days of the festival from August 20 – 30. Q&As follow applicable films and are noted whether they are live or recorded.