BFI Flare Review: Mama Gloria

Gloria Allen

Whilst Western societies have come a long way when it comes to equal rights for all, that doesn’t mean that everyone is being afforded the same treatment. Or that there’s not been a backslide over the past few years with the rise of popularism. Whilst there are still massive issues surrounding race relations, gender inequality and homophobia, we’ve certainly seen some major improvements. The one area that’s lagging behind is that of trans rights.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, trans awareness and rights were nowhere near as strong as they are today. Gloria Allen, aka Mama Gloria, emerged from Chicago’s south side drag ball culture to become a community leader’ most famously establishing a charm school for young transgender people. Now in her 70s, she reflects on her life and the challenges faced today by black transgender women in Mama Gloria.

Mama Gloria is a loving portrait of an influential figure who became a motherly figure to young transgender people in her neighbourhood. Luchina Fisher’s documentary is impressively made, constructed in a way which builds up a rounded picture or a unique person. It’s more celebration than investigation, so whilst many of the major issues affecting that community are touched upon, the focus is on a big character whose determination and empathy quite rightly earned her the title Mama Gloria.

Mama Gloria screens at BFI Flare.

Previous Premiere: Niko Novak's 'Tuesdays, Tuesdays, Saturdays': watch the snow fall over his bar-stool yearning
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