Arts & Entertainment
2 min

From glam to gritty

Jamie Babbit's new Itty Bitty Titty Committee

Credit: Xtra West files

A movie named Itty Bitty Titty Committee can certainly bring intrigue on its own, but knowing that the film comes from the mind and hands of Jamie Babbit —director of the hilariously campy queer classic But I’m a Cheerleader (a tongue-in-cheek look at organizations designed to turn people straight) —makes Itty Bitty one of the most anticipated queer films in quite some time.

Babbit appreciates the enthusiasm, but cautiously notes that that upon release, Cheerleader’s reviews were all over the map.

“I got an F in Entertainment Weekly and a really bad review in Variety, but those things didn’t stop me… I just did my thing. I’ve never really known if people are interested or not, but the blessing is that I don’t really believe the hype negatively. I’m just glad that the movie has been a bigger hit as time has gone on.”

But I’m a Cheerleader did bring Babbit positive attention in the industry, giving her the opportunity to make a second feature (The Quiet), garner an agent and direct episodes of everything from Ugly Betty to The L Word. Throughout that period, Babbit never forgot how deeply inspired she’d been by the Riot Grrrl scene in the mid-’90s, a movement that celebrated and cultivated feminism through music and self-published fanzines; she had long wanted to document the excitement of that time through film.

“I was in my early 20s when I was going to Bikini Kill shows and was totally inspired. I was newly out and loved going to shows, I had listened to punk music in high school but it was such a guy scene. It was so revolutionary to be able to go to a punk show slamdancing. I loved the music, loved the scene and always wanted to make a movie about that experience; I lived it and so many other people did.”

Enter Itty Bitty Titty Committee. The film’s main storyline involves Anna, a plain-Jane working in a plastic surgeon’s office, feeling the pressure to change her body. She meets Sadie one night outside her clinic, when she catches her graffitiing the business’ walls.

Befriending the radical, sexy founder of a group called the CIA (Clits in Action), Anna falls headfirst into Sadie’s leftist, anarchist world with the enthusiasm of a born-again shit disturber.

The film includes a host of queer celeb actors (from the L Word’s Daniela Sea to supermodel Jenny Shimizu to Go Fish’s Guinevere Turner) but ultimately is dark and gritty, homemade-style like a Super 8 movie, a complete 180 from Cheerleader’s neon bright colours and scripted perkiness.

Babbit says the end result is fully intentional. “My whole inspiration for Cheerleader was Barbie; I gave the production designer my Barbie dream house and said that I wanted it to look like the dream house and wanted the costumes to look like Barbie clothes. For Itty Bitty, my inspiration was the lo-fi cover art for all the Riot Grrrl bands on their seven inches and stuff.”

As a result, the film seeks to be rebellious at every turn, with its low-budget feel and long diatribes on everything from plastic surgery to creating a grrrl-style revolution.

Babbit admits there has been some negative feedback regarding the underground feel, but is unhesitant and unapologetic about the dramatic change from her debut.

“When I made Cheerleader, the big movie was Go Fish which was super gritty. I was a freak for making a pretty movie and I got in shit for it. Now, everyone is making glossy films and are saying to me, ‘Why didn’t you make a pretty movie?’ Truth is, there’s something fun about doing something really gritty.”