By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 29, 2010)
Sometimes, it’s kind of fun to just throw a dart at the SIFF schedule and see where it lands. I had no clue as to what to expect when the lights went down for the screening of Leanne Pooley’s documentary The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. All I knew was that it was a film about yodeling lesbian twins. I didn’t even know if it was for real; it sounded like a mockumentary, to be honest. To my surprise, by the time the lights came up, my faith in humanity had almost returned.
Because you see, it’s hard to be depressed after spending 90 minutes with the film’s subjects. Jools and Linda Topp have to be two of the most charming, down-to-earth, warm-hearted and preternaturally gifted entertainers you’d ever want to meet in a screen profile. Hugely popular in their native New Zealand, the 52-year old Topps have been bringing audiences their unique blend of music and comedy (and yodeling) since the 1980s.
What most impressed me was their dedication to progressive activism (Billy Bragg describes them as “an anarchist variety act”). Over the years, they have campaigned for LGBT rights, participated in protests in support of civil rights for New Zealand’s indigenous Maoris, and worked in support of the anti-nuke movement (to name a few). What’s refreshing about their political work is that there is no grandstanding; you don’t doubt their sincerity for a second (“what you see is what you get” says one of their fans). Pooley’s film is as upbeat and straightforward as her subjects; imparting the joy of creating something that is at once entertaining and inspiring