The 2005 documentary “The Aggressives” provided a novel view of ballroom culture, or the underground pageant scene which emerged as a haven for queer Black and Latino youths in the 1980s and ’90s. The subjects of the 2005 film are people who identified themselves as “aggressives” — they were assigned female at birth, but they competed in ballroom categories highlighting their masculinity. They walked the catwalk dressed in construction gear and basketball jerseys. The original film followed its stars for five years, as they carried their gender performance out of the ballroom and into the streets, into their relationships and family lives.
Now, decades years later, the director Daniel Peddle follows up with his former subjects, in the documentary “Beyond the Aggressives: 25 Years Later.” Four of the original subjects of “The Aggressives” return to offer updates from their lives, and once again, the filmmaker interviews his subjects across five years.
One such subject, Kisha, who was once a model, has grown into an artist, and the film uses Kisha’s photography as a clever way to include commentary on the original film from new transmasculine, nonbinary or lesbian subjects. Trevon now identifies as transmasculine and nonbinary, and is happily partnered and considering how to build a family. Octavio works to reestablish a relationship with his son, and he considers when to pursue gender affirming surgery. Chin seeks support from the Transgender Law Center for assistance in navigating immigration law after he is targeted for deportation by ICE. In each of these updates, Peddle hews close to his original film’s style: he asks his subjects to define themselves and then he keeps watching, letting their actions color in the lines of their self-definition. It’s an approach which grants dignity to his subjects, an effect which is only amplified by the passage of time.
Beyond the Aggressives: 25 Years Later
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. In theaters.