Gay Essential Review: Galore at Merlinka Festival

Galore directed by Lazlo Tonk and Dylan Tonk documents an extraordinary year of change for Sander den Baas. Adopting the drag name Lady Galore, Sander is a prominent name within the European drag community. Despite her success, Sander is longing for change, particularly in regards to his health and lifestyle, but he is worried such changes will have detrimental effects on Lady Galore’s career. In just over an hour, we see Lady Galore travel the world to perform for anticipating fans and Sander implementing the positive life changes he wants to achieve; intertwining them to make an inspiring story of acceptance, vulnerability, and finding home, not only in one’s community but in one’s self.

Galore

Sander is first introduced preparing for a show in Dublin, Ireland. Before the performance, we see Lady Galore surrounded by fellow drag queens, and during her set, she is adored by her audience, but it is Sander’s moments alone which are most memorable and striking. Alone in a hotel room, Sander starts becoming Galore, applying make-up while on a live stream. Like most performers, Sander utilises social media to connect to fans, amassing over 13,000 followers on Instagram. After an exuberant performance, we see Galore’s transformation back to Sander. There is a vulnerability and near intrusiveness that accompanies watching a performer take their make-up off, Lazlo and Dylan Tonk further heighten this by overlaying a voiceover wherein Sander opens up about his attempts at losing weight.

We learn more about Sander’s background as he walks along the Irish coast. As we see him collecting shells around the beach, he tells of his difficult experience with coming out which resulted in his mother throwing him out of their house for being gay. A harsh reality that is all too familiar within the LGBTQ+ community, in Britain alone, LGBT folks make up for 24% of the homeless youth population, many stating that rejection and abuse from their families due to their sexuality is one of the reasons for their situation.

Sander shares a quote from his father that undoubtedly sticks with him to this day, ‘I don’t want you acting like a girl’. The film cuts back to Sander transforming into Lady Galore, finishing the last touch-ups before a performance. While Sander’s current relationship with his parents is not stated, Sander is presented at relative ease with living as he wants to live, wearing the nail polish and looking like the girl his father threatened him not to be. Shifting away from the typical focus of documentaries on the LGBT community, rather than focusing on finding acceptance from society (although, the film does a wonderful job of contrasting Sander’s experience in Amsterdam with folks Sander meets at the Merlinka Film Festival), we focus on Sander’s journey to healthy living and self-love, not in the form of accepting his sexuality but his body image.

He goes through gastric bypass surgery in the hopes of reducing the increasing number of health problems he struggles with daily. The film does not shy away from showing the realities that accompany his strive for better health post the surgery. Repeated several times in the film, it is when Sander is transforming himself into Lady Galore wherein the filmmakers have the most vulnerable and honest conversations with Sander. Even after several months of visible progress, Sander declares ‘I see myself as still chubby, I don’t think that’s gonna change for a while’.

The film covers a few more months following the surgery, Sander’s transformation continues and he looks healthier, happier, and beaming with energy – over the year, he loses over 60 kilograms. Having reached his goal for himself, the film closes on Sander envisioning a new goal: creating a safe space for other members of the community. Mirroring his strives for making his own home amongst new friends, as well as feeling at home with himself, he organises community-building events for LGBT+ folks where everyone is free and safe to be themselves and have fun. Galore is, at times, heart-rending with its encapsulation of the body image issues that burden modern-day performers, it captures a side of drag queens that is not often seen, but it is unequivocally an inspiring story that needs to be told.

4 Stars

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All pictures reproduced courtesy of Dyzlo Film

Graciela Mae

Graciela Mae

Filmmaker
Graciela Mae is a Filipina studying Film, Television and Digital Production at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has previously written for Screen Queens, Much Ado About Cinema, and The Skinny. When she’s not watching films, she’s probably attempting to make films herself (she swears she has other hobbies).
Graciela Mae
- 30 mins ago