Seeing Bi the Way meant making my first South By foray over to the Dobie theater. It’s a tiny little venue, hidden inside a tiny, University of Texas campus mall a couple of miles away from downtown on The Drag. When I lived here in the 90s, this area was always one of my favorite places to hang out. The student union nearby always had the cheapest pool tables, and the weird mix of stoner hippies, college students, and potato selling Scientologists which usually lurk around the area make for an interesting brew. If there were ever some sort of serious cultural upheaval in Austin, it’d probably start here.
That made this the perfect place to see a little documentary like Bi the Way, a film focused on examining whether or not the burgeoning numbers of out and out bisexuals in America is just a fad or a growing social revolution. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately it never puts much effort into making a case one way or another, and gets lost in following around a relatively small group of interviewees, some of whom really have nothing to do with their topic, except perhaps by remote association.
It starts with co-directors Brittany Blockman and Josephine Decker packing up and hopping in their car to travel across America. Their goal is to uncover the truth of bisexuality by talking to people about it all around the country. There’s a half-hearted attempt to make this a road movie, but after that opening packing scene the movie never follows any specific journey. It leaps around from city to city, from one side of the country to the other with little rhyme or reason.
What we get is a collection of interviews as Brittany and Josephine zero in on a few specific people which they seem to think represents America’s growing bisexuality. At least two of them do. The first is a beautiful young girl named Pam who seems pretty happy with guys or girls, and fears letting her father find out lest he toss her out of the house. The second is Taryn, half of a swinger couple and a bisexual with an understanding (and more than happy to participate) husband named Rage. As for the others, two of them are men who claim vehemently to be bisexual, but throughout the film do a pretty good job of making a case for why they might be gay men fooling themselves into thinking they’re actually bi, mostly because of guilt or fear of retribution. The fourth is a precious 10-year-old kid who’s dad is gay, but seems himself utterly heterosexual and who’s inclusion in a movie about bi-sexuality never makes a lot of sense. Even if the kid thought he was bi, which he doesn’t, he’s only 10. Guys don’t have any sort of significant sexual drive until puberty kicks in. If every 10-year-old who thought girls were icky was gay, then there wouldn’t be a single straight guy anywhere on the planet. He’s a cute kid, but he doesn’t do much to further what we’re told is the point of this documentary.
At the same time, I feel a little guilty for being so hard on Bi the Way. I may not think it does a very good job of examining the issue of bisexuality, but Brittany and Josephine do capture some great interview footage from people who, seem to be taking advantage of the cameras to say all the things they’ve been afraid to say to their friends. Their interview subjects are fascinating, and the movie’s worth watching for the masterful manner in which its directors managed to make these people feel comfortable enough to talk openly and honestly about what to them, are almost certainly their deepest, darkest, feelings on their own sexuality.
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