With the unfortunate history of portrayals of many marginalized communities, the first films to kick open the door to mainstream representation were often made outside of a community, resulting in work that is deemed problematic in today’s environment. Chasing Amy being one such example: though the third film from Kevin Smith met some controversy, it did not have picket lines that his fourth, Dogma, would invite.
For Sav Rodgers, a kid growing up in Kanas who adored Ben Affleck, Chasing Amy became a gateway into understanding themselves and, ultimately, who they wanted to become. In his highly personal feature film debut, the trans filmmaker expands upon his viral TED talk, unpacking multiple problems with Chasing Amy and the ’90s independent film scene. It was a time of gatekeepers that often, intentionally or not, suppressed mainstream LGBTQ films made from within the community, bankrolling and elevating voices like Kevin Smith––in his sheer provocation, a boy from the Jersey shore who may have unknowingly opened the door for pan and bisexual representation with his first feature Clerks. Cultural critic Princess Weekes remarks on how unintentionally positive Smith’s pictures are at representation. Smith is not the villain of this story, but rather becomes a friend and mentor to Rodgers––he never intended to reach them in Kansas, but was glad he did.
Chasing Chasing Amy is more than just a cast reunion (though it does feature Smith, Joey Lauren Adams, Scott Mosier, and Jason Lee) or a cultural examination (featuring the voices of film critics, academics, programmers, and queer filmmakers). It’s a rather personal exploration over several years as Rodgers, with his partner Riley Rodgers, experiences many life-changing moments––among them a first trip to Red Bank, New Jersey, to revisit where Ben Affleck has been, to Rodger’s transition during COVID. Helping to tell the story are Smith’s fellow Sundance classmates, including Guinevere Turner, whose romantic friendship with Smith’s producing partner Mosier influenced the film. Starring and closely collaborating with the queer filmmakers of Go Fish and The Watermelon Woman, Turner ultimately begrudges Smith for being able to build an empire with the wide release of Clerks and a subsequent deal to make Mallrats within the studio system, while Go Fish did not afford her the same opportunities.
What Rodgers manages to do is miraculously shed new, original light on Smith, a man who has literally told every story in his repertoire, as well as unpacking the elephant in the room––gatekeeper Harvey Weinstein––who later holds back Joey Lauren Adams’ career. What is remarkable is just how young Smith, Turner, and Adams found critical success. Physical and mental-health issues notwithstanding, Smith undoubtedly had a happy ending and has served as an inspiration. But as the documentary unpacks, he was by no means perfect: for Adams, Chasing Amy exists as a record of their relationship, exploring fights and anxieties that come from youth and inexperience.
Told in a personal, straightforward way by framing Rodgers as the hero of his own comic book, the film opens new windows into a man that loves to talk and talk. Rodgers has crafted a worthy companion to Chasing Amy, a warm and inclusive film that could not come at a better time. Finding role models and acceptance in his family Rodgers, like Ben Affleck’s Holden McNeil, bears his soul and ultimately finds a happy ending with his wife, Riley. The film playfully mixes interactive, conversational talking heads with Roger’s own journey to become the person they always wanted to be. In a time when trans individuals are the subject of draconian measures and cruel commentary from elected officials and pundits, authentic, honest portraits like these are needed in the mainstream.
Chasing Chasing Amy premiered at Tribeca Festival.