While Frank is sent on a mission to Djibouti, Roger remains with his daughter at Fort Buchanan, a military base where abandoned wives talk about their husbands and sex is always about to happen.

Fort Buchanan (2014) is a gay fantasy, a queer comedy, an absurd drama – and a very strange object. It’s the first feature film of actor and director Benjamin Crotty, 35, an American living is Paris

The film, which he describes as a bio-fantasy about normativity, is being shown at the Portuguese film festival IndieLisboa this week.

I saw it some days ago and I was very curious to talk to the director. I sent him some questions by email, trying to understand his point of view. I now present his answers, organized in thematic blocks.

Benjamin Crotty (photo: unifrance.org)

Questioning norms
“The film is generally about normativity: heteronormativity and homonormativity and linguistic norms too”.

Like a fantasy
“Lots of things in the film don’t correspond to our reality, but are treated as banal within the reality of the film. This goes beyond the homosexuality of the Roger/Frank couple in an army context to include biological things.

For example, Roger talks about how he had to drop out of school to have his daughter Roxy.This is really unusual for a gay man to do since adoption is a very deliberate process and not something that takes you by surprise, or happens to you at a very young age. So, it seems almost that Roger got knocked up rather than adopted Roxy.

This bio-fantasy aspect of the film goes beyond gender roles to encompass the physical morphology of the characters. For example, Trevor, the sad solider who arrives in the final act of the film, looks more like a tragic Romantic teen poet than a typical American G.I. (who would have more in common with the physique of Channing Tatum, for example).

In this sense, there is a twinge of almost science fiction/alternate reality going on in the film, despite its traditional look”.

 Before Fort Buchanan there was Fort Buchanan: Hiver
Fort Buchanan: Hiver is the first 13 minutes of the feature Fort Buchanan. We shot Hiver with very little money in a day and a half in February 2012. Once the short existed and was in some festivals (Locarno and Rotterdam) it helped us to finance the rest of the film.

The entire film is structured seasonally and the other seasons – spring, summer, fall – were shot over the next two years. To make the entire film, including Hiver, we shot for fifteen total shooting days. We filmed in the Lorraine region of France and Tunisia (Djibouti in the film)”.

Sex is always about to happen

Inspired by American TV shows.
“I first wrote a super-structure for the story, laying out the characters and plot. Then, I downloaded transcripts of many different American TV shows, which you can find online for close captioning. I would do keyword searches in the transcripts. For instance, I would keyword search ‘regret’ or ‘death’ for the autumn part of Fort Buchanan, where the characters speak a lot about regret.

For the spring part, keywords would be sexier. But the result is that every word that comes of a character’s mouth is taken from a US TV show, but with a high degree of collage going on in the writing, mixing words and sentences from many different sources. And then, of course, translated into French.

What interested me in TV dialogue is actually pretty broad—the efficiency of writing, the ‘authorless’ quality of it  (in terms of using writing teams), and the weird normative world it creates.  When I watch American TV, I’m often shocked or interested by the way things are phrased.”

Benjamin Crotty is fascinated by the military
“When we made Visionary Iraq [he and the Portuguese director Gabriel Abrantes, in 2009] my little brother was stationed in Iraq, as was his wife. A lot of the inspiration for that film came out of that reality.

But beyond this autobiographical connection, I have a broader interest in the military. In the United States, Hollywood and the Army are two of the biggest industries. There is a lot of cash and power at stake in both, and they each have complex systems of self-representation. When one explicitly deals with the other, it is pretty interesting and often really weird what comes out of it”.

Queer/ Non-queer
“It’s certainly often called a queer film. I’m not totally clear on what differentiates a queer film from a non-queer film that has homosexual characters in it, actually.

I’m a little wary of applying queer to Fort Buchanan mostly because I think it can be a bit exclusive. For example, I think my mom would feel intimidated or excluded by a film that called itself queer, as if the film was not addressed to her as a married straight woman. I know she felt quite touched by the characters and close to their problems when she watched it and I definitely consider her to be someone to whom the film is addressed. I guess I’m not sure how productive it is to frame this film through that discourse”.