Screenwriter, director and producer Patrik-Ian Polk revolutionized LGBTQ content with films like the The Skinny (which introduced Jussie Smollett to the world) and the revolutionary series Noah’s Arc (which helped cement Logo as the preeminent network for LGBTQ content at the time, pre-streaming). The follow-up feature film Noah’s Arc-Jumping The Broom remains a fan favorite to this day. Polk’s films followed the tales of groups of African-American men who were unabashedly loyal, always looking for love, deliberately outspoken, and continuously embracing their own sexuality. Simply put, the openly gay spoke about representation in an interview, simply saying that he “wanted to see black gay characters and there were none on TV. So I decided rather than complain about it, I’d do it myself”. Now one of Polk’s earliest films is about to get a much-requested release from rabid fans of Polk’s work.
When speaking at a screening of Punks at the Brooklyn Art Museum recently, Polk confirmed that the film is returning for a new generation to enjoy (“We are working on getting ‘Punks’ out” Polk said, responding to an audience question). He went on to say that the film would be released this year and that “it will be streaming somewhere”. The 2000 film Punks (also Polk’s feature film debut) follows a group of gay African-American friends (as Noah’s Arc did in Polk’s future work), and includes future Noah’s Arc star Rodney Chester, heartthrob Rockmond Dunbar, Dreamgirls icon Loretta Devine and Melrose Place star Vanessa Estelle Williams. Exploring themes of HIV, marriage, and a little bit of drag thrown in courtesy of Jazzmun, as well as an appearance by nightlife legend Kevin Aviance, Punks served as a template not just for Polk’s subsequent work, but for a number of LGBTQ films that would follow in years to come.
Punks relationship with music is one of the threads that runs throughout the film. The film itself was produced by Babyface, and the songs by Sister Sledge (featured prominently in the film) are possibly the catalyst for what may have contributed to the lack of wider distribution of the film. Music also remains a backbone of many of Polk’s projects, with Noah’s Arc-The Rona Chronicles being released in 2020 (when many of us were looking for fresh content of any kind). Polk himself performs the material, which served as an accompaniment to the virtual reunion of the cast of Noah’s Arc.
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