Runs in the Family, which follows a reformed con artist and his transgender son on a road trip across South Africa, is now streaming globally on Netflix.
The duo plans to break the boy’s estranged mother out of rehab and return in time for a drag competition that could win him his gender-affirming surgery.
The film, which Netflix bills as “warm-hearted” and “irreverent”, was made by the real-life father-son filmmaking duo of director Ian Gabriel and writer-actor Gabe Gabriel. It stars seasoned UK actor Ace Bhatti (Bohemian Rhapsody, East Enders) opposite Gabe, who came out as trans in 2019.
They are joined by household names Diaan Lawrenson (7de Laan, Semi-Soet) and Rob van Vuuren (Ludik, The Umbrella Men), enigmatic newcomer Cleo Wesley, and a handful of familiar film, stage, and TV faces like Khadija Heeger, Faniswa Yisa, Loren Loubser, and Kathleen Stephens.
Gabe describes Runs in the Family as his love-letter to the queer community, which is often depicted on screen as stereotypically tragic.
“I wanted to represent something I have in real life but have never seen before in TV and film, which is a positive father-and-trans son relationship. I know how scary it can be to come out to family members who have only seen the sensationalised hardship and trauma of trans life in media,” he says.
“So, I thought if other people could see a positive depiction of trans life and family, perhaps they wouldn’t be so frightened. My hope is that in this quirky, sentimental, positive depiction of trans life and family, viewers will find inspiration to support, celebrate, and love each other better.”
Apart from the fictional international queen, “Her Vagesty”, played by West-End musical theatre actor Earl Gregory, all the drag artists featured in the film’s climactic drag show can be seen regularly on Cape Town’s popular drag circuit.
Notably, one of the country’s top drag talents, Manila von Teez – SA’s Got Talent runner-up, many-time pageant winner, and Haus of Vjorn fashion designer – served not only as a supporting cast member but also as a consultant on all things drag across the film, collaborating with department heads on makeup, hair, wardrobe, performance, and dialogue.
The bevvy of local queer icons who grace the screen include the likes of drag queens Ina Propriette and Maxine Wild, pioneering legendary ballroom house, The House of Le Cap, and performance artist, DJ Queezy.
“We hope that our father-son road-meets-drag movie is a joyous balm for anyone being persecuted for who they are, and a reminder to all that across seas, borders, and cultures, it is our sameness and humanity that define us, not our differences,” says Ian.
Ian and Gabe will continue their collaboration in 2023/24 as co-directors on Fae Pictures’ Granny Lee, a disco resistance drama of the Apartheid era about the late real-life trans disco icon Granny Lee.