Leanne Pooley's 2009 award-winning documentary about New Zealand's Jools and Lynda Topp, billed as the world's only yodeling, country-singing, twin lesbian comediennes (though they prefer to be known as singers who are funny), has just been released on DVD.
The documentary profiles the Taurean twin sisters (born May 14, 1958 in Huntly, located in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand); real cowgirls, who grew up singing to the cows on the family's dairy farm near Huntly.
Patriots with particular political passion for social justice and nuclear disarmament, Lynda and Jools left home at 17 to join New Zealand's rough equivalent of the United States' erstwhile Women's Army Corp. Reflecting on their New Zealand military service "before it was integrated," Lynda describes the three-month training experience as "sort of like a pajama party with guns."
Natural-born entertainers, the twins' harmony singing and comedic bent resulted in their developing a cast of characters including Camp Mother & Camp Leader, Raylene & Brenda, and the cross-dressing Ken and Ken. But the sisters don't flaunt their sexuality so much as embrace it and, as a result, they have a worldwide, mainstream appeal.
As Comedy Writer Paul Horan says of the Topp Twins, "On paper they should not work. On paper they should be commercial death. But they totally deliver to the audience time and time again."
In their native country, the Topps have used humor to both make a point and defuse controversy when they assert their penchant for activism. Such was the case when the twins dealt with their government's position on gay rights: "The law had said it was illegal for consenting adult males to engage in sex. But it was an injustice. We felt like it was an injustice. We said one day they'll make a law that includes the lesbians. We need to step up to the plate and we need to make sure we're part of this homosexual law reform bill."
Needless to say, they were. As New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark recalls, debate on the bill "polarized the Parliament... I think the Topps being so proudly who they were helped make the issue seem a more mainstream one... It had real people associated with it. Good people- like the Topps. And that helped carry the day."
When cameras are not capturing the Topp Twins singing, as they are positioned on the front lines of numerous political demonstrations for their favorite causes, Joolie and Lynda are seen clowning around, most famously during their Great New Zealand Gypsy Caravan Tour.
But life is not all joy, even for the joy-filled Topp Twins (who, for instance, demonstrably inform audiences that "Yodeling is all about hip movement.") Should there be any doubt about that, or the fact that the camera never blinks, "thanks" to archival film Pooley took full advantage of access to footage of Jools going through chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Untouchable Girls, titled after the Topp Twins' song of the same name, has won more than 20 Best Documentary awards. Non-rated and running 84 minutes, the film has been screened at over 80 international film festivals, winning the Cadillac People's Choice for Best Documentary at its North American premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival.
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