TFF 2016 Review: Strike A Pose


Tribeca Film Festival is a well-known landscape for documentaries. This year is no exception with another powerful slate of selections. One documentary that caught our eye was Strike A Pose.

We all know the iconic Madonna’s blonde ambition world tour and its polemical documentary, 1991’s Truth or Dare. But, who are the back-up dancers that accompanied and supported her and where are they now?

Strike a Pose isn’t about Madonna, it’s about the male dancers Kevin, Oliver, Luis, Carlton, Jose, Gabriel, and Salim; a diverse, impressionable group of young people whose lives were forever changed.
This documentary, from directors Ester Goul and Reijer Zwaan, revisits the performers, after years apart, providing viewers a chance to learn more about the emotional truth behind the stage and their individual struggles after the tour.

The first part of the documentary sets up how these seven young dancers, barely in their twenties, joined the famous pop star on her most controversial tour, with on stage uses of sexuality and religion, complete with the dancers journey through the film Truth or Dare. With Madonna’s motherly instinct towards her six gay dancers, plus straight Oliver, the star used the film to proclaim her viewpoint on gay rights, freedom of expression and the fight against AIDS. Tabloid accusations of obscenity and blasphemy at various times, she is seen on TV shrugging, “If you keep putting something in someone’s face, then maybe they can eventually come to terms with it.” She’d lost a lot of friends to AIDS and her gay-positive, pro-safer-sex viewpoint was definitely sincere. Truth Or Dare became cutting-edge with the famous scene of two guys kissing passionately. Even today the dancers receive thank you correspondence from people around the world, how the film changed their lives.

Despite the dancers becoming a symbol of freedom of expression and portraying that on stage, they weren’t living it. Gabriel wasn’t proud of being gay at all. After failing to persuade Madonna to cut out the kissing scene that would ‘out’ him to his family and friends, he filed a lawsuit against her. A few years later at age twenty-six, he died of AIDS. He wasn’t the only one that was silent, several others were already dealing with being HIV-positive. Twenty-Five years later, these men tell us how hard it has been to live the once glamorous facade. Drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, even homelessness were among their struggles.

In Strike A Pose they share their incredible stories and confessions, the fear of people’s judgments that held them back. The documentary inspires and shows what does it really take to fully reveal one’s true self.

Find More Information Strike A Pose at the 2016 Tribeca Film FestivalHere

About the Directors
Ester Gould (1975) is a Scottish-born documentary filmmaker who lives and works in Amsterdam. Her first feature-length documentary Shout, jointly directed with Sabine Lubbe Bakker and shot in Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights, won the prize for Best Film at the London International Documentary Film Festival in 2010. Strike a Pose is her third feature-length film.

Reijer Zwaan (1981) is a journalist and filmmaker for Dutch Public Television. Reijer was 11 years old when he first saw Truth Or Dare. He was fascinated by the film and as the years passed, he couldn’t help but ask himself what might have happened to the young dancers who had made such an impact. Strike A Pose is his first feature length film.

— Lia Fietz


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