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Anna Margarita Albelo & Guinevere Turner
Anna Margarita Albelo wears vagina costume suit as seen in 'Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf'

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?

Anna Margarita Albelo dons a vagina costume and chats lesbian culture (or lack thereof) with her costar Guinevere Turner

"Here's the thing. Lesbian films… they don't make any money," says, ironically, a gay film financier in Anna Margarita Albelo's Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf? Raising a middle finger to that very statement by making her own gut-busting comedy, Albelo doesn't see why you can't make a lesbian film, and make it funny. By literally dancing around in a vagina costume, she subverts the lame, misguided idea that you need girl-on-girl action to have anything worth watching. Instead, she plucked writer of The L Word and actress in her own right, Guinevere Turner, to bring her story to life. Albelo turns the camera on herself for an account of a director – mid-mid-life crisis – staging an all-female remake of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? However, as is wont to happen, she falls in love with Katia, the star of the film who becomes her muse. Albelo becomes obsessed, and her self-destructive downward spiral sees her relationships tested and her love-life crumble. We wrangled Albelo and Guinevere Turner for a lesson in mid-life crises, feminism and why lesbian films haven't "crossed over".

How did you first meet?

Guinevere Turner: Anna was doing a documentary in Palm Springs about the Dinah Shore Weekend – a lesbian Spring Break party. I was there, and our mutual friend who was shooting her documentary asked if she could interview me.

Anna Margarita Albelo: Guinevere had said, 'Listen, if you need a base in Los Angeles you can stay with me for two months until you find a place.' We got along, so it was fun because I was meeting one of my lesbian feminist film icons. I remember thinking, 'I want to be friends with her.'

When did you first get the idea for the film?

Anna Margarita Albelo: We love films with powerful strong women like Virginia Woolf (sic) and Sunset Boulevard and Baby Jane. So we started watching a lot of these movies when we were living together. My screenwriter offered me his vagina Halloween costume – that was a big influence. Then I was so broke after a couple of years in LA that I had to move back in with my parents to get back on my feet. I was turning 40 but felt 15 again. So I started writing.

Was it very autobiographical?

Anna Margarita Albelo: Yes, I wanted to create a character I’d never seen before: a Cuban-American Latin 40-year-old lesbian filmmaker. I wanted it to be very specific about a woman dedicated to lesbian culture and feminism, which is emblematic of my generation and Guinevere’s generation. I wanted to be able to show where she is 20 years later. It kind of reflects on where we are because there is still a lot to do (in regards to) lesbians, feminists and women’s rights. 

How do you both feel about the lack of lesbian films on lesbian culture?

Guinevere Turner: There has been a trickling of non-American lesbian films over the years, but I don’t feel a lesbian film has crossed over. That might say more about independent film than lesbian film though. It feels like we have remained in the margins. What’s weird is that lesbians are on TV a lot; all sorts of people are on TV that weren’t five years ago. There’s one film where there’s a woman fucking a man within her lesbian relationship. I love that film don’t get me wrong, but it’s not exactly a romantic comedy about lesbians, which is what I'd love to see.

Anna Margarita Albelo: Lesbian cinema is disappearing. Lesbians are seen as having even less money than women, so there’s very little money in the minds of the financiers. I think either way there's still going to be women making the films, but there might be more movement away from feature films to television and web series.

“I don’t feel a lesbian film has crossed over. That might say more about independent film than lesbian film though. It feels like we have remained in the margins” – Guinevere Turner

Anna Margarita Albelo: It is a known thing in straight or gay films, particularly concerning lesbians. If you have hot lesbians with or without David Lynch there’s a beautification of lesbians – it's something that turns everybody on; it makes money. If you have a film that isn’t, it's losing its interest.

Guinevere Turner: It’s the story of my life. People say this isn’t real life because the lesbians are so pretty. So I said, 'So you’re saying lesbians are ugly?' Ugly people don’t go into acting because they don’t get as much work.

“We should make a movie Ugly Lesbians Having a Lot of Sex and see how that goes down” – Guinevere Turner 

Anna Margarita Albelo: In general, sex sells.

Guinevere Turner: Five years ago, certainly ten, 15, everybody was up in arms about anything with a lesbian character. When I say everybody, I mean the lesbian community because we were so deprived. But now I think that shows like The L Word brought on exponential coming-outs of all ages and nationalities of women. It definitely helps a lot in a sociological way and now in an artistic and cultural way.

I’m hypercritical about anything about lesbians because there’s so little representation. It’s more work than the average thing because you’ve got to make everybody happy but at some point you can’t so you have to let go. We should make a movie Ugly Lesbians Having a Lot of Sex and see how that goes down. I realised a long time ago, no matter what I do lesbians are going to be mad, so I’m just doing what I want. 

Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf is released by Peccadillo Pictures on DVD and On-Demand from 29 September