UK, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)
Director: Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams
The all-singing, all-dancing, Takarazuka Revue is one of Japan's foremost musical extravaganzas, with lascivious sets, classically romantic Broadway style shows and an all female cast. The stars of the show, the young women chosen to play the 'male' leads, attain the status of pop icons with thousands of fanatical fans showering them with gifts and acclaim. Even with two shows a day every day of the week, tickets are impossible to come by, and in every seat in the theatre there sits their wildly adoring audience: women.
Kim Longinetto's Dream Girls is a strange delight. On the surface it is an entertaining waltz through another, often unfathomable culture, but beneath the sequins, feathers and Brylcream, the film skirts around the nature of sexual identity and the contradictory tensions that face young women in Japan today.
The Takarazuka school accepts only forty applicants a year, and in exchange for a chance to act, look and behave like 'ideal' young men and create fantasies of undying passion, the young students submit to a rigorous and bizarre tutelage. Their time at the top is short: stars are forced to retire after two years, to make way for the new contenders. This along with the pressure to marry by the age of twenty-five (you must be single, indeed not even be dating, to be a Takarazuka headliner), ensures that the dream may be real, but it never lasts.
Dream Girls is about glamour and escape but it also reflects that the prism of social control has more facets than a dancehall mirrorball.