Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reality check

After watching a great lesbian-themed movie, I was inspired to go online and see if I could buy some more similar DVDs. The U.S website http://www.wolfevideo.com/ has a wonderful selection, but being in South Africa, I’d rather buy locally. It just feels safer to do so, from a recourse point of view. It's also possibly cheaper.

So, I went to a few well known SA retail sites and was dismayed by what I found. In short, very little. None of the main SA sites even had a 'gay and lesbian' category, let alone stocked some of the most popular movies. Come on! Haven’t they heard about the Pink Rand?

So, anyway, here are the results of my snap survey of a few SA sites. Please let me know if I've missed any out. If you have any Pink Rands at your disposal, you may want to spend them at the more pro-gay shops.

In order to compare apples with apples, I searched for various items on each site. I’ve included a few of the more popular books too.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream circuits in SA)
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3)
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD – a classic)
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!)

According to http://www.southafrica.info/, there are a few website contenders for books or DVDs if you’re in SA. I tried all five options they listed.

Kalahari.net (http://www.kalahari.net/)

This was my first choice because it markets itself as the biggest and best in SA, and a site that delivers your order in less than 48 hours.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD) They’ve got the book, and it sells at around R145. No DVD.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD) They’ve got the book, and it sells at around R145. No DVD.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA)
Nope
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3. This has been shown on TV here)
Nope. But their rather pathetic internal search engine coughed up a list of ‘possibles’ for this one, including ‘Die Lief en Leed van Anastasia’ and ‘Breastfeeding without Tears’.
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD) – No
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!) It’s there – for R94.95

Their search engine is pretty weak. Under DVDs, I searched for ‘lesbian’ under ‘keyword’ and random movies popped up including ‘Friends – Season 1’.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 3

Exclusive Books (www.exclusivebooks.com)

Billed as ‘the online shop of one of South Africa's biggest bookselling chains’.

In order to compare apples with apples, I searched for various items on each site.
1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
They’ve got the book, priced at between R250 and R158. No DVD.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
They’ve got the book, priced at R378 for the hardback to R118 for the soft cover. No DVD.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA) - No
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3) - Nope
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD) – No
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!) Nope

Notably absent from the category list for books is a distinct category for ‘gay and lesbian’. Considering they stock both of the books I searched for, it may make sense to add the category so we can skip straight to it, so to speak.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 2

Loot (http://www.loot.co.za/)

This site was news to me so I wasn’t expecting much. It proved to be the best of the lot. The search engine allowed you to look for a title across categories. For example, Fingersmith produced the book and DVD results all in one go. Nice.

1. Fingersmith (both the book, and the DVD)
Loot had both. The book went for between R254 (hardcover) and R122 (paperback). The DVD was R275.
2. Tipping the Velvet (both the book, and the DVD)
Once again, it’s got the book and the DVD. Book retails for between R136 and R125. DVD priced at R92. Wow, that’s cheap.
3. Imagine Me & You (DVD – was recently on mainstream movie circuits in SA)
Got it – for R246.
4. The L Word (any season, from 1 -3)
They’ve got the DVD of Season 1 (R605) and Season 2 (R604) and the soundtrack CD of season’s 2 and 3.
5. Claire of the Moon (DVD)
Not there. Ahh!
6. Kissing Jessica Stein (DVD – so mainstream!)
Yes, it’s there – for R117 and R91

Incidentally, I searched for ‘lesbian’ under Books and a host of titles came up. Impressive. Did the same under DVDs and only ‘Tipping the Velvet’ came up.

Score: (out of 10 – each number representing a product) 8

Look & Listen (www.lookandlisten.co.za)

Didn’t really expect to find any of the DVDs listed and was surprised to find that they had Kissing Jessica Stein (R99.99) and Tipping the Velvet – the DVD – for R299.

The site is not user-friendly to search for movie titles.

Score: (out of 8 – as they don’t do books) 2

Musica (http://www.musica.co.za/)

This site had all three box sets of L Word – for just under R600 a piece. Also had ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’ for R99.95
The site’s search function is not very user-friendly. When looking for a DVD, it frequently pulls up everything, music CDs included.

Score: (out of 8 – as they don’t do books) 4

Overall: Okay, so you may think that I’ve defeated my own argument that you can’t find lesbian movies and books in SA, online, but remember, I generally searched for the popular, mainstream titles. The one non-mainstream DVD I searched for, Claire of the Moon (which is all over Amazon) was nowhere to be seen. In other words, while the mainstream titles may be available (as a token), there isn’t much investment in this genre. For that, I need to shop abroad. Hmm. Pink Rand indeed. For now, my money is on Loot.

3 comments:

Artemis said...

As a South African living in Canada, you have just made me realise how truly more accessible films and books are to those of us in north America. I hope that this will change as the demand for such items grows in SA.

I absolutely love anything linked to Sarah Waters, and both Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith are masterfully converted to film.
To add to your list of titles for lesbian movies to look out for, I recommend
Saving Face
Nina's Heavenly Delights
Red Doors
Girl Play

Other's which I own, but which are not to be listed as priority "must haves" include
Everything relative
Treading Water
April's Shower
My Summer of Love

Movies with interesting lesbian couples featured prominently include
What's cooking?
Eulogy
Rent

Two new movie releases that seem in the same genre as Imagine me and You, that may be interesting (simply for treating the lesbian storyline with metter of factness), are "Grey Matters", and "Puccini for Beginners". Perhaps we can see who gets to see them first and elicit a review...?

Wolfe Video do indeed have a phenomenal selection of lesbian and gay movies, but heed the caution that they may not be compatible with South African dvd players. You may be better served through British online resources....

Her Story SA said...

Thanks for the comments and advice. I will definitely keep an eye out for the movies you suggest and post feedback here!

Her Story SA said...

Having said my money was on Loot, I ordered two of the DVDs and must report back that I found the company to be excellent. No problems at all and very professional service.