The People's Joker 2022

Directed by Vera Drew Nocturnal

Vera Drew lays her soul bare with this fever-dream of a DC Universe parody that takes us through the trippiest and most monumental moments of her life and gender realisation.

Aug 09

Hollywood Avondale

USA In English
92 minutes Colour / DCP
NZ Classification TBC

Director, Editor


Joey Lyons


Vera Drew, Bri LeRose


Nate Cornett


Justin Krol, Quinn Scharber, Ember Knight, Danni Rowan, Elias and the Error

Production Designer

Laura Wheeler, Courtney McIntosh, Amy Smoot, Yesi Rego, Lauren Kezon


Vera Drew, Lynn Downey, Kane Distler, Griffin Kramer, Nathan Faustyn, David Liebe Hart, Tim Heidecker, Bob Odenkirk


Toronto, Fantastic Fest 2022; SXSW Sydney 2023


Presented in association with


If you’re a fan of the DC Universe, you might think you’ll hate this film… but if you watch it, you’ll probably love it. In The People’s Joker, director Vera Drew narrates her own story of growing up and moving out of home as a psych-trip dive into a superhero versus villain tale that is not only whimsical and moving, but also strangely hilarious. 

Born into a God-fearing family with an overbearingly straight-edge mother and absent father, *deadname* found it difficult to find themselves. After a childhood of emotional abuse and gender liberty deprivation, they turn to the drug Smilex to appear as the happy (cis) child they’re expected to be. Comedy becomes an emotional escape, and when the chance arises, they move to Gotham city. Here, comedy is highly regulated. So, when they’re reduced to their genitals to graduate comedy school they instead opt for an alternate (albeit illegal) pursuit of their passion. After committing to the life of a comic, *deadname* chooses to instead go by Harlequin the Joker. Suddenly her world expands, opening up to the empowering and exciting, but also to the dark and grimy.  

Although the foundations of the story described above may be recognisable, The People’s Joker flips narrative familiarity on its head. Littered with hilarious bits and irreverent pop culture references, the film keeps you entranced and in awe. The use of CGI and various animation styles gives the film a DIY feel that enriches the wackiness of its setting and Vera Drew’s conversational narration provides an accessible voice with a satirical essence. At its core, The People’s Joker asks why we view some as “heroes” and others as “villains”. Literally and metaphorically – is Batman actually just a closeted gay man with a history of abuse and far too much money? It urges us to consider if life really is as black and white as heroes and villains, or man and woman. — Huia Haupapa