A film by Leilah Weinraub
2019, 82 minutes
No. 257

An extroardinary, essential documentary, Shakedown is the story of Los Angeles’ black lesbian strip club scene and its genesis. Owned and operated by women, underground and illegal in nature, the club Shakedown is the darker, faster, younger iteration of this dance culture. The film is a window into this world.

Shakedown emerged from a post-RIOTS, post-OJ, post-integration but still very racially divided Los Angeles. In this divided city Shakedown is an independent, all black and all female cash economy. 

Created from over 400 hours of footage that filmmaker Leilah Weinraub has been collecting for the past 15 years, the film incorporates live tapes from the club, backstage videos, archival material, flyers, and interviews. Shakedown chronicles the explicit performances and personal relationships of the party’s dancers and organizers including Ronnie-Ron, Shakedown Productions’ creator and emcee; Mahogany, the legendary “mother” of the community; Egypt, their star performer; and Jazmine, the “Queen” of Shakedown.

Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
Official Selection, Outfest

Shakedown — being neither a commercial spectacle nor a didactic case study but a torrent of curiosity and fantasy—makes space for itself.... Weinraub is best known as the C.E.O. of the street-wear fashion brand Hood By Air, which enjoyed critical acclaim and snowballing sales before going on hiatus, in late 2017... Weinraub is deeply interested in the work that manifests high-power performance, and Shakedown is constantly interrogating what links labor and the individual.”
– Cassie da Costa, The New Yorker

“Leilah Weinraub’s masterful documentary is a scintillating ode to Los Angeles Black lesbian culture and the city’s infamous ‘Shakedown sessions’ — club nights where women danced for an audience of predominately Black, gay women. An immersive, celebratory depiction of queer Black lives.”
– Jasmine Weber, Hyperallergic

“Watching Shakedown is like entering a new world… it’s a documentary that often feels more like a fever dream than a series of real life experiences. It’s a world that the viewer is fully invited to be a part of, regardless of race or sexual identity… But to see Black women – and queer Black women at that – expressing their sexual desires and needs feels major, and Weinraub’s nuanced portrayal of stripping and female entertainers is also important.”
– Grace Barber-Plentie, Another Gaze

“One of my favorites of the [True/False] festival, Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown documents the rise and fall of one of the only Black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles… An attendee eventually hired as a videographer for the club, Weinraub is a member of the community she documents, which is essential to the beauty of the film… The frequent nudity and ass-shaking isn’t meant to be sensationalist or oversexualizing; rather it’s a means of showcasing the dancing styles, energy, and physicality of Oohzee, Egypt, Jazmyne, Slow-Wine, and the women who throw singles in appreciation.”
– Taylor Montague, Reverse Shot

“Weinraub surveys the flow of money, sex and power in this dream-like foray into a black lesbian strip club in LA in the early 00s.”
– Simran Hans, The Guardian

“A study of a community organized around arousal, dollar bills, and outside oppression… Indeed, what’s striking about Shakedown onscreen is its unabashed physicality. It’s a fundamentally sensual film. The footage is explicit and lascivious, and money participates in, and drives, the show—bills flood the floor as the angels perform.”
– Holly Connolly, Vice