Reeling 29 Part 4: Interview with Giovanna Chesler of the movie Bye Bi Love

In the film “Bye Bi Love,”  a woman receives a wedding invitation to her ex-girlfriends hetro nuptials, officiated by her own ex-husband. In deciding whether or not to attend, she must face the reality of both past relationships.

“Bye Bi Love, part of the Goodbye My Love short series of  films showing on Monday November 9 at the Landmark Century Theater 2828 N. Clark Street at 9:15 PM.  Here’s what Giovanna Chesler the director and producer shared with PrideIndex.

PrideIndex: Tell us about each film you’ve made and where did you find the inspiration each one?
Chesler: My career began with three films of the “BeauteouS Trilogy”  which are three portraits of myself and my two sisters and our relationships to beauty. Though we grew up in the same household, we had very different experiences when it came to our bodies. My youngest sister Stephanie was born with a cleft lip and palate and had 30 surgeries to transform her face, I grew up feeling rather masculine, excessively tall and unattractive and my middle sister was raised as a beauty queen who then shocked everyone by dating women in college.

My next film,”Hand-some” was a documentary that I began, abandoned, and then finished a few years later. This was supposed to be a film about my middle sister, the beauty of the family, in documentary form. I had gone to film her moving in with her girlfriend as a way to show the distance between her previous life as a straight uber-normy Long Island prom queen and now as a lesbian on the move. But as I literally started to make the film she and her girlfriend broke up. The recordings of the moment reveal how my camera had in part, pushed this reaction and reveal my own reasons for turning my camera on this subject.

After that personal work, I moved into broader documentary and performance subjects and made an hour long documentary titled “Period: The End of Menstruation” about trends in hormonal birth control which allow women to stop their periods for months or years at a time. It began after a friend told me that she hadn’t menstruated in 3 years and was taking Depo Provera. I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard of – stopping one’s period – and I wanted to know more. That film screened around and was covered in mainstream media outlets as it became a touchstone for the debate over non-stop hormonal birth control and the value of the menstrual cycle.
Another project that I made on a taboo subject is “Tune In HPV” (, a website where folks can post their HPV stories and watch videos made on the subject. The site began as a short series of performances I did from bed and uploaded to youtube while I was recovering from an HPV related surgery. Folks who saw the films wanted to share their own stories with me and in light of the “HPV vaccine” promoted at that time, the conversation of HPV was on many minds. Some students at American University worked with me to create the site and build the content. I plan to continue working in the area of STD’s for my next film project.

PrideIndex: Your career includes experience in filmmaking on a subject matter considered to be too risqué or taboo where do you find the nerve to go there?
Chesler: Really?! Who doesn’t want to talk about periods? Or their fear of STD’s? I suppose that the subject of “Bye Bi Love,” which includes a view of marriage that isn’t positive and affirming, counts as taboo as well. I make these films because I feel that we want to and need to talk it out, whatever it is, but where we can do that and who might judge us for it is another issue altogether. Films spark conversation and present scenarios outside of a viewer’s own life, where she can see different positions and experiences enacted. I’m not afraid of people asking me “You’re making a film about what?” I got over that when I started making Period, and fast!

PrideIndex: In “Bye Bi Love” the main character Vera is faced with the decision on whether or not to attend the nuptials of her ex, have you ever been faced with a similar situation in your own life, if so how did you handle it?
Chesler: Have you ever attended a wedding and thought, why did I do that? I never realized you could say “no” to a wedding invitation and I’ve gone to great lengths to make nearly every wedding I’ve been invited to. I have definitely made the wrong choice on occasion and that inspired me to write this film. What prompted me to actually make this film was the need to let go of past loves so that I could make room for something new. I wanted to represent the residual emotions left by exes of all varieties, men, women, ex-husbands, ex-girlfriends. The things exes leave behind when they go, those objects that remind you of them, they become characters in this film. So the film is about cleaning house in one’s heart.

PrideIndex: I understand “Bye Bi Love” has played in several film festivals; where else do you plan to show it?
Chesler: It premiered in New York at Anthology Film Archives in a program of my work (the BeauteouS Trilogy and BBL) curated by Vitoria Kereszi of Eye Am: Women Behind the Lens. It played in Seattle in the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and will be at the Lesbian Looks film series in Arizona in February. I’m awaiting responses from several other fests that requested a screener of the film. I feel like it will play around this year at many other places and folks can check for updates.

PrideIndex: Tell us about any other notable challenges encountered while making “Bye Bi Love.”
Chesler: If I say money. I’m an going to sound really boring. But that was the biggest challenge – getting the money from my pockets and scraping it together to see this through. All else was smooth as silk. The crew was incredible to work with particularly the cinematographer, Ann T. Rosetti, whose work I have admired for a long time. She shot By Hook or By Crook,  Go Fish and other feature length films. I want us to keep making work together because I feel true creative synergy with her. Allison Findlater-Galinsky, who plays Vera, was brought in by the casting director Katherine Honchey. Kat and Allison met years ago and when I showed Kat the script, she knew it was Allison who was meant to play Vera. She was right.

PrideIndex: Have you considered working in front of the camera? Why or why not?
Chesler:  I appear naked and on fire in my film in the Beauteous trilogy – does that count? I feel that through that work, I paid my dues to the lens. In that film, I exposed my darkest view of self so that I could then ask others to appear in my work, be it in a documentary or in a fiction film. It is a lot to ask of someone – to share their story for your creative goals – and I needed to put the microscope on myself. I also performed in my HPV videos which were experiments out of desperation – a need to express the confusion and pain during my recovery from a ubiquitous virus that most say is ‘no big deal.’ But would I continue to perform – not really. I have much to learn about acting and others are much better at it than I.

PrideIndex: What else would you like to tell us?
Chesler: I think that covers it. Thanks for asking. Giovanna Chesler was born in Huntington, Long Island, NY, she currently lives in Brooklyn. Visit