Directed by Katarina Peters • Documentary • 2012 • 59 minutes
Performance artist and gender activist Diane Torr has appeared on stages around the world as a drag king, performing male characters inspired by philosopher Judith Butler's theories of gender performativity. Now she holds workshops for other women in which they develop their own male characters and live as men for a day in an attempt to better understand the dynamics of gender in contemporary society.
MAN FOR A DAY brings us inside Torr's workshop in Berlin. The artist guides a group of open-minded women from diverse backgrounds-an Angolan single mother, an Israeli lesbian, a young German beauty queen, among others-through the theoretical underpinnings of her work, and helps them develop male characters of their own.
Insisting that each participant ground her character in observation, Torr takes them out to the streets of the city to watch men, noting their gestures, their gait, and their sense of ownership of the world they walk through. From these models, the women develop personas for their own characters.
Torr then helps them transform themselves: adopting the gestures and physicalities they observed, locating appropriate clothing, and concocting a voice for the character. The women then venture out into the world, travelling among strangers in public spaces, and visiting their own families, as men.
A practical, hands-on exploration of some of the key theories in gender studies, MAN FOR A DAY is an investigation, as serious as it is playful, of how masculinity and femininity are constituted today.