One Zero One

Text JF. Pierets    Photos Stefan Braunbarth, Till Müller & René Moritz

 

One Zero One is Tim Lienhard’s first independent feature film starring Cybersissy and BayBjane. This 90-minutes long documen-tale tells a true story about a most unique friendship, about survival at the edge of society and about the final triumph over mishaps and obstacles that seemed to have one marked for a life in the shadows. The movie follows a portion of the lives of 33-year-old Maroccaine-German Mourad and 48-year-old Dutch Antoine, two drag-performers, better known as Cybersissy and BayBjane, two otherworldly spirits, who light up the stages of the international party-circuit with their boundless creativity and their well calculated freakish-ness. We meet on the eve of their German movie theatre show in Cologne. 

 

Tim  I’m so excited! Tomorrow we’re going on tour to both queer and other film festivals. We’re also invited to the porn festival in Berlin, so that’s really exciting. We’ve received 25 invitations up till now. I guess we must be doing something good.

Tim, this movie is something entirely different from what you normally do.
Tim Indeed. I produced and directed more than seventy feature-documentaries and approximately thousand tv-magazine-features, mostly for German public television-channels ARD and ZDF. Since 1999 I have expanded my range of public recognition into the French-German television-network ARTE. After 30 years it was time to do something different from television and it’s the first time I’m doing something like this. Very free, very independent, 90 minutes of film for the big screen. You can imagine I’m very, very happy that it worked.

And why this subject? How did you meet? 
Tim I saw them perform in a nightclub in Cologne.
Antoine We were huge underground stars in Cologne.
Tim I’ve always loved eccentrics – because they dare to be different, because they reinvent themselves every day. Antoine and Mourad do exactly that… That’s why it was love at first sight, when I first saw them powering up the Cologne nightlife many years ago. I was thinking: “Oops! Is Leigh Bowery still alive?” I had visited Leigh, the iconic London clublife star of the late 80’s and early 90’s, in his apartment on the seventh floor of a London high-rise where I shot a tv-documentary about his living sculptures. That was in the mid-90s. Unfortunately he died shortly after that. To me Antoine aka “Cybersissy” seemed like the reborn Leigh Bowery. Antoine was a true icon of Cologne’s nightlife and it is about time for him to gain fame in the same line as Leigh Bowery did. When we first met I was intrigued by Cybersissy’s performances, he was buzzing in the back of my head. But only about two years ago I got in touch with Antoine, visiting him in Tilburg, his hometown in South Holland. Soon I was able to convince him of the idea of creating a movie-portrait of him. Next I had to gain Mourad’s trust because he doesn’t like tv.
Mourad Tv is just one big brainfuck. A manipulation.
Antoine And they always have a long list of stupid questions like ‘how long does your make-up take?’.Tv is like one big black hole that needs to be filled. Nevertheless we are very proud to have been chosen by Tim to do the movie.

Yet it was a leap of trust?
Antoine it was a leap of trust because somebody is doing a story on you. It could have been told much different and it could be turned out a scandal movie, which we didn’t want.
Tim With my camera I followed the two, who I like to call ‘my Cyberstars’ to the international locations of their performances. It rarely felt like work, as we had so much fun and love the party life. The three of us made a good team. And we still do. A team, that was joined by our highly motivated friends and colleagues of the crew and everybody else, who participated, to make this film happen.

Is the movie a collaboration between the three of you?
Tim The movie was a total collaboration, so if one of the actors didn’t want something, it didn’t happen. Mourad had set his borders? He’s a very unusual phenomenon. The tabloid press approached him on several occasions, but he refused to have his story exploited in freak-show-style. Instead he decided to confide to me. As he told me, it were my television documentaries on Leigh Bowery, Gilbert and George and on androgyny – in particular about Orlan, a French artist who got plastic surgery in front of cameras and transformed to unnatural shapes. That convinced him to collaborate with me. Antoine, on the other hand, was in anticipation of the moment. That’s why this movie became something else than just another documentary. One of my friends lend us this villa where we could film and I can say that was the turning point where it also started to become a fairy tail. One way or another everything came very intuitive. I wanted to give both of them the possibility to tell their story which, in today television, is almost impossible. It’s a new step for me to go to the big screen. 90 minutes to expose two characters with the freedom to show it the way I really want to. So I wanted to do something which I really connected to. It’s a passion and it has to be because we’ve been seeing eachother of almost 15 months now.  So that was my goal. And it worked.Fortunately the three of us were on the same page. This is based on the desire for transformation and self-determination. We know that we have much more possibilities than playing a given role dictated by society. We want to develop and grow beyond ourselves, to mythical creatures, as well as in always new self-inventions. Not predictable, not simple, but always surprising. That’s what our heroes do with each new day. And Antoine and Mourad are my heroes. Antoine aka Cybersissy was born 1964 in the dutch city Tilburg, where he still lives. In 1988 he graduated as bachelor of arts and soon his art was recognized by his hometown and supported through a number of awards and specific grants to allow him to work independently and strive in his profession. He designed sets for five different childrens theatre productions and got nominated for the Flanders Childrens Theatre price. In 1994 he added a new line of work to his flourishing talents and started designing costumes, props and stage sets for the Club Fuck in Tilburg. At around this time he invented his stage-persona Cybersissy and started developing her unique looks. He also worked for the famous It-club in Amsterdam, the Roxy and the Danssalon in Eindhoven. Subsequently he landed a permanent asignment at the Danssalon, making him head of the Entertaintment Group: A wild bunch of performers consisting of transvestites, dragqueens and dragkings. Here he staged performances and designed stage-outfits for 2 years at this party phenomena. Two years later he left The Netherlands to mix up the German party scene. Dawnproductions GmbH in Cologne called upon his talents for the Funky Chicken Club, the Crystal Crash and gay parties at the then famous club Lulu. And here, at the Cologne club Lulu he discovered his future counterpart Mourad and his skills for being a performer and helped him developing the stage-persona BayBjane to match his own alter ego Cybersissy, making him the perfect counterpart for their successful club-performances. Together Cybersissy and BayBjane were the perfect team to rock the stages at clubs all over Europe: in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain.

Antoine, why did you choose to go into drag performing? 
Antoine I love the energy. Transvestites are men who want to look like a women but dragqueens are party creatures.  That’s a whole different kind of energy. It’s about celebrating the drag culture in it’s original form and even lift it a little bit higher so it becomes art. Leigh Bowery is another example, but the strange thing was that he was already doing his stuff and people told me I  looked just like him. When I came to London after he died, people thought he was still alive.

 

‘It’s about celebrating the drag culture in it’s original form, even lift it a little bit higher so it becomes art.’

Tim I met Leigh in London and I can say that he and Antoine have the same spirit. I believe that there can be connecting energies in completely different places. Like Leigh, living in the UK and Antoine in the Netherlands. Not knowing eachother but kindred spirits when it comes to creativity. Antoine made all the costumes for the movie. Regarding my work in television I think I have a sense of what’s art and what’s not. And I must say that Antoine is on the same level as Leigh. It’s the same level of creativity and he makes his pieces out of almost nothing. All these materials look fabulous but they are actually made of trash. The wonderful white hat for example is made of plastic spoons. 
Antoine You’re always surprised with second hand stuff. And then it’s the trick to see something else in it. Accidents happen so one thing lays to another and they get connected.  I started making clothes in 94 when the whole house party scene came up in Tilburg.

And now your story is adapted for the screen.
Antoine We had our premiere in Amsterdam and in Stockholm and the reactions are really fantastic. We had a queer audience and people where standing up and cried. They thanked us for empowering. And that’s why we do it. To inspire and to empower eachother. To create a fountain of ideas. But it was such a nice experience to stand in front of that audience.
Tim I’m happy that the movie is not only shown in front of a queer audience but also in mainstream cinema because we also handle universal issues in order to anyone to connect. That they can relate to it.
Antoine The thing is that we always worked in all kinds of places and I like the idea not to preach for your own church. To also go to places you wouldn’t think of.
Mourad We enjoy that the people love it and that the reactions are really positive. And that’s good because when you are handicapped and not like healthy people. You can give people to power by showing that you can do whatever you want to do. And not to be forced to be in the place where handicapped people are. I could do that. Just working, sleeping and taking my medicine. But life is more than that and I want to experience life in full force. I want to give people the power to do what they want in their life and not being short winged because of their physical inability to do certain things.

Mourad aka BayBjane is, at the height of 149 cm, ‘the smallest drag queen of the world’. Multi-disabled since birth, he has spent half his life in hospitals and homes for the handicapped. His legs are of different length, he has no regular toes, no regular fingers and just one eye. And yet he has managed to overcome the limitations of his disabilities and to transform himself into a performer who shares the stage of Matinée Group parties on Ibiza with perfectly built go-go dancers and shines even brighter than them. Mourad was born in 1979 in Bonn – Germany as a child of Moroccan parents. Mourad was physically disabled from birth and handycapped and spent many years in German hospitals, later in special homes for disabled people. But Mourad wanted to live his own life, so he left the home for disabled people and started a new life in Cologne. Meeting the dutch performer Antoine here, at the famous gay club “Lulu”, turned out to be a door to a new life and into a degree of independency and recognition nobody would have thought being available to someone like Mourad. The new invented BayBjane took her first steps at the legendary Funky Chicken Club in Cologne. But Café de Paris and Salvation in London followed. Quickly she became one of the most popular national and international party-performance-artists around. Shows all over the globe at the hippest clubs and cameo appearances in music videos are proof of her uniqueness and versatility. In 2009 BayBjane became the first official worldwide mascot of the legendary Pacha-club in Ibiza. Since then David and Cathy Guetta, Campino and Fedde Le Grand have become avid fans and are beloved colleagues. In the meantime BayBjane has moved to Berlin and expanded her colourful business into producing her own music and taking part in the Dreckqueen project of collegue Cybersissy, while simultaneously taking singing lessons. Who would be surprised, if this multi-talent were to land a dance-floor hit.

Mourad In the film I say: ‘I can stay home and my father can open a shop for me’. But I wanted to do different things. I can always go back to that when I’m fed up with the performances. I spend half my life in the hospital, I’m the only sick one amongst 4 brothers and sisters and I’m the one who’s always travelling, who’s never at home.

How does it feel to be on stage?
Mourad To be on stage is work. But the most important thing is that I have fun. And to show the people: look how I am, how my body looks like. And what I do with that.
Tim I’m so happy that people are really inspired by the movie. A lot of them told me they wanted to ‘do’ something when they left the theatre. And that was my aim. To give something positive and to trigger creativity. To inspire. In television it’s all about problems. We talk about problems but we also show how wonderfully they can be transformed into something creative. I could have made a horrormovie, but that wasn’t what I was aiming for. Colourful, playful, positive.  You can do whatever you want if you want to give it your very best.

 

One Zero One
In a colorful blend of documentary, behind the scenes-episodes from clubs around the world, private video-material, probing interviews, that reveal the inner life of our protagonists, as well as artfully staged fantasy-sequences of lush opulence, the movie celebrates the unique friendship and restless life-style of these two unlikely heroes and shows the triumph of individuality and creativity over the parts that society expects us to play.

 

www.onezeroonemovie.com

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