When we realised that The Wiz was released 40 years ago it seemed like a good excuse to make it one of the BlackOut films at this year’s Fringe! Film Festival in East London.
And then we watched it again . . .
. . . we watched it again and realised that 40 years on, this Sidney (Twelve Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) Lumet directed, Quincy Jones produced soundtrack, with songs written by Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross, and cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne was what we needed right now.
Exhausted by the narrow posturing of our politicians as we slope out of Europe; entering a tenth year of public spending austerity that is leaving our brothers, sisters and family underemployed and their lives even more precarious; living with the impact of a lurch to the right in public attitudes that has created a hostile environment for us that has made some of our elders stateless and those seeking refuge treated worse than animals; and squeezed out of many spaces in our great city in the name of gentrification – WE NEED A BREAK!
As well as an escape, we need to build community among queer people of colour. We need to see each other and encourage new habits of solidarity. We need to stand together, wallow in Black excellence, and remember to smile, sing, dance and laugh together.
In response to the exclusion of Black people from the Hollywood that embedded Judy Garland singing ‘Over The Rainbow’ into the queer imagination via The Wizard of Oz 40 years earlier, The Wiz and its creators decided to ‘be better, not bitter’ and made a film that is both unapologetically Black and quintessentially American. In response to our exclusion and needing to create the future that we need, starting right now, we too are creating spaces that reflect us. Learning from Black feminist futurity and building on the radical thought of our queer elders, online, on camera, on stage, in zines, in recording studios, galleries, ballrooms, sports fields, nightclubs, carnivals and theatres, queer people of colour in London and across the UK are creating the new – by us and for us.
We need to take time to celebrate this and each other.
Queering The Wiz feels like the perfect response to our times and with your help we hope to make it the perfect opportunity to celebrate each other.
Excited by the prospect of queer people of colour coming together to celebrate this extraordinary film, and even more excited at the prospect of bringing queer people of colour from across London to create something together, we would like to invite performers to choose a song from the film and perform it alongside this seminal movie at The Wiz@40 a QTIPOC-led event as part of Fringe! Film Festival.
Whether you’d like to Ease on Down The Road, remind us not to Bring No Bad News, hang with the Poppy Girls, or rule the Emerald City disco dance floor, please help us to bring The Wiz to life. In doing so, we aim to create a shared experience for our QTIPOC community of communities, and greater motivation to look out for and support each other.
We too believe that artists and organisers should be paid for their time and expertise. On this occasion, however we don’t yet have the resources to do so; (we’re still trying though, and any sponsorship or funding leads would be very welcome). We’re not making any money from this event, instead we are offering our time and bringing together a team of volunteers to share their expertise in costume, make-up, videography and PR, and the energy, networks and elan of the Fringe! Film Festival team – All that is missing is you – performers willing to donate their art, audience members who are willing to buy tickets (and to pay it forward by buying tickets for the less privileged members of our communities), and friends who are down to party.
Get involved. Create the conversation The Wiz@40
Where can you sign up . . . ?
In order to take part we have set up a poll for you to complete. All you have to do is pick which song you’d like from the list and a back up. Performers will need to be available from 11.30 on Friday 16th November at the Rio Cinema in Dalston.
If you would like to refresh your memory of the film, songs, costume, and the routines, we’ve put together a You Tube playlist of Songs from The Wiz
We realise that we’re not the only ones who have been inspired by this movie – here’s a playlist that includes artists from Jill Scott to Johnny Mathis, SNL to Family Guy, Beyonce to Queen Latifah. The Wiz is a cultural phenomenon – you can add other videos that we don’t know about to The Wiz Inspiration playlist
How else can you help?
We knew you’d love this idea as much as us – we also know that not everyone will want to/be able to take part on stage. Here are some other ways that you can help –
- Are there any artists/performers who identify as queer people of colour who you think should be involved – let us know, pass on the link to this call
- Are there costume designers, make-up artists, technicians/stage managers who might also want to be involved to support our brilliant existing team.
- Do you know of any emerging artists, amateur groups, or students (18+) who are (or majority) queer people of colour who might want to contribute
- Help us to promote the event through your networks and any PR contacts you may have – let’s create a buzz and pack the cinema
- Sponsorship would make this event much easier to organise – do you have any contacts with relevant ethical brands or companies that might be interested to support the event financially?
- We need prizes and giveaways for those who make an effort with their costumes – the more fun the better
- There’ll be a pre-party from 8pm at a venue nearby, and an after party from 1.30am – be great to make this special too – show us how
- The audience will be invited to attend in fancy dress as characters from The Wiz, or dressed in green, like the residents of Oz’s Emerald City. Can you help us source green clothes so that everyone who attends can feel included.
Thanks for reading – looking forward to working with you on creating a new shared experience for us and by us.
Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at the sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”