The Royal Road
May 26th, 2016

The Royal Road [2015]

Please join us for a FREE one-night screening of Jenni Olson’s 2015 Sundance Film Festival debuting The Royal Road [2015].

  • Screening Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2016 | 7:00pm
  • Venue: Dreamland Studio & Gallery
  • Specifications: 2015 / 65 minutes / English / Color
  • Director(s): Jenni Olson
  • Print: Supplied by The Film Collaborative
  • Tickets: Free and Open to the Public | $5.00 Suggested Donation
  • Extras: Stop in early for FREE Breadhive granola while supplies last!

Spring 2016 Season Sponsor:

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

387 Franklin Street, Buffalo, NY 14202

TrailerSynopsisDirector’s StatementDirector BioLinks

Courtesy of press kit:

A cinematic essay in defense of remembering, The Royal Road offers up a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voiceover cameo by Tony Kushner.

I strive in my films to achieve a combination of essayistic personal reflection, romanticized fictional narrative, the sharing of lesser-known histories — all against a backdrop of carefully composed urban landscape images. In 2005, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle presented me with the Marlon Riggs Award “for courage and vision in Bay Area filmmaking” for my first experimental feature documentary, The Joy of Life. I strive to be worthy of this distinction in all my work, and my conception of The Royal Road is nothing if not courageous and visionary.

Deceptively simple California urban landscapes serve as the framework for the film’s lyrically written voiceover which combines rigorous historical research with a stream-of-consciousness personal monologue and relates these seemingly disparate stories from an intimate, colloquial perspective to tell a one-of-a-kind California tale. Shot on 16mm film and contemplatively crafted of long takes, The Royal Road is a film about landscapes and desire, memory and history – and the stories we tell.


  • Sundance Film Festival – 2015

Courtesy of press kit:

I’ve always found it challenging to adequately characterize in words the complex nature of my filmmaking. I can describe the ostensible topics (in this case an array of interests ranging from the Mexican American War to the production of Hitchcock’s Vertigo) but of equal, if not greater, importance is the style and cinematic strategy of the storytelling. My simple photographic compositions and the lengthy duration of my shots are crucial components of this vision (in my favorite review of The Joy of Life, The Village Voice called the film: “thrillingly minimalist.”) My dedication to the analog medium of 16mm film is a significant aspect of my creative aesthetic in achieving the experience I seek to create for my audiences. Through mostly wide and very static long takes, my films preserve a record of California’s rapidly changing urban landscape. With great affection, and an understated sense of civic pride, I aspire to make the mundane heroic and to give viewers a way of seeing that they can take out into the world when they leave the theater. Perceptually and spiritually, my work challenges viewers to slow down and pay attention to the moment and to the world around them, drawing attention to the beauty of what might–at first glance–appear mundane, but is in fact a rich tapestry of architecture, light and shadow, and ephemeral history. For me, the joy of my films is found in the poetry of the static image — in the experience of time passing on film, undistracted by plot, actors, dialogue and other narrative conventions. An internal drama is evoked in the sensitivities of each viewer who is open to the subtleties of these mundane shots that are almost bereft of movement and sound.

“I take much joy in bringing historical representations of marginal groups to contemporary audiences. Film is such a powerful medium, and it is a unique pleasure to see ourselves represented.”

Courtesy of press kit:

Jenni Olson is one of the world’s leading experts on LGBT cinema history and is currently VP of e-commerce at Her debut feature film, The Joy of Life world premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and went on to play a pivotal role in renewing debate about the need for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as earning the 2005 Outfest Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and the 2005 NewFest Award for Best U.S. Screenplay. Jenni’s most recent short film, 575 Castro St. premiered at Sundance and the Berlin Panorama in 2009. Commissioned for the release of Gus Van Sant’s Milk, the film can still be seen online at the Milk website, on the Sundance YouTube Screening Room page, and in a permanent installation at 575 Castro Street (home of the Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store).

In 1995 Jenni was one of the founders of where she established the massive queer film industry resource, PopcornQ and pioneered the first online showcase for LGBT short films (the PlanetOut Online Cinema). More recently she co-founded the first global LGBT streaming movie platform, She is on many advisory boards including the Outfest/UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, and Canyon Cinema. She is also on the board of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and is very proud to be the co-founder of the legendary Queer Brunch at Sundance. She frequently serves as an advisor to filmmakers and is currently a consultant on Deb Shoval’s new lesbian feature, AWOL (now in pre-production).

As a film collector and archivist Jenni’s historical movie trailer programs (including the ever-popular: Homo Promo, which is now available on DVD) have been shown at film festivals around the world, as have her many short films and videos. In addition to her vast curatorial experience (including stints at the Minneapolis/St. Paul and San Francisco LGBT Film Festivals) Jenni has written extensively about LGBT film since 1985 for publications too numerous to mention. Her wildly entertaining coffee table tome, The Queer Movie Poster Book was a 2005 Lambda Literary Award nominee. Materials from Jenni’s personal archive of rare LGBT film prints have been utilized in dozens of films including such acclaimed documentaries as Stonewall Uprising and I Am Divine. She can be seen in several documentary films offering her perspectives on LGBT cinema history, most recently in the IFC documentary, Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema. She is also featured in the documentary, Vito a film portrait of Vito Russo (author of The Celluloid Closet and one of her most significant mentors).

Photo Credit: Lydia Markus


  • 30/30 Vision: 3 Decades of Strand Releasing (2019)
  • The Royal Road (2015)
  • The Joy of Life (2005)
  • Bride of Trailer Camp (2001)
  • Afro Promo (1997)
  • Trailers Schmailers (1997)
  • Trailer Camp (1995)
  • Neo Homo Promo (1994)
  • Homo Promo (1991)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 3/23/16 – Jenni Olson talks preservation, pining and the art of pretend in the making of her literary film essay with Sam Fragoso at Fandor – link
  • 5/12/16 – “Suffused with melancholy, longing, and chagrin, Jenni Olson’s supple cine-essay The Royal Road is, above all, a film against forgetting. In its densely packed but fleet 64 minutes, this discursive documentary considers topics as disparate as the Spanish colonization of California, the Mexican-American War, Vertigo (and other celluloid touchstones), and the director’s own “lifelong pursuit of women.” As personal as it is political, Olson’s meditative project offers a profound lesson on intimacy and history — and the ways in which both are distorted and remade by memory.” Melissa Anderson, Village Voicelink
  • 5/13/16 – Courtesy of Jenni Olson: “A nice little interview from my recent screening of The Royal Road at my alma mater — the University of Minnesota” – link
  • 5/22/16 – “So the film is a sort of butch reply to Ross McElwee’s classic Sherman’s March (1986 film), in which the project of documenting the traces left by General Sherman’s devastating advance in the South at the end of the Civil War becomes a convenient way for the filmmaker to record his meetings with women (also mostly unavailable). I want people to like me. To fall in love with me. Simply because it makes me feel better. I’m always searching for the thing that will make me feel better. And so often that thing is a girl. This could have been said by McElwee; the radical difference is that’s is written and delivered, years after the fact, by a butch filmmaker keenly aware that lesbian desire is still underrepresented in film, and who takes her cue from other female experimental filmmakers (Su Friedrich for the obsessive shooting and collection of footage; Trinh T. Minh-ha and Chantal Akerman for the long takes; all of them for their project to subvert the tropes of mainstream filmmaking) rather than vérité documentary.” Bérénice Reynaud, Senses of Cinemalink
  • 5/25/16 – “Containing gorgeous landscape photography and shot on 16mm by cinematographer Sophie Constatinou, Jenni Olson’s essay film The Royal Road mixes documentary with personal narrative and an experimental impulse. Like nearly every good model in its genre, this is a digressive, associative work that is driven by reflection — in this case, on history, romantic desire, the landscape, nostalgia, and even the lives of libertines. Olson’s big subject here is California’s colonial past; the film’s title is a translation of El Camino Real, the highway that stretches from Sonoma in northern California to San Diego in the south. In Olson’s words, “Practically everything [in California] has a Spanish name. San Francisco. Los Angeles. And yet people tend to be either unaware of or not deeply aware of the fact that this all did belong to Mexico for a long time and was forcibly taken in a war that was very clearly not an honorable war.” Girish Shambu – link
  • 7/22/16 – The Royal Road hits DVD/VOD courtesy of Wolfe Video on September 6th, 2016 – link
  • 10/10/16 – Jenni Olson shares her Landscape Cinema Starter Kit at MUBI – link
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply