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Becoming Cherrie

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A short documentary about living with HIV in conservative Northern Irish society. The film tells the story of actor and performer Matthew Cavan, aka Belfast’s most-loved drag artist, Cherrie Ontop. Diagnosed HIV-positive aged 19, Matthew struggled to find acceptance in conservative Northern Irish society. Coming from a religious family, Matthew was kicked out of his church by the Minister, and having never met anybody else with HIV, felt so alone he tried to commit suicide.
In a desperate attempt to escape his everyday reality and get back on stage, Matthew created his absolutely fabulous drag alter-ego Cherrie Ontop. A decade later, Cherrie is Belfast’s most-loved drag artist, and Matthew is a spokesperson for people living with HIV in Northern Ireland. However, as a result of being so open about his HIV status, Matthew has become a frequent target for homophobic trolling, threats and abuse.
BECOMING CHERRIE allows us inside the intimate process of transformation between Matthew and Cherrie. A portrait of resilience and reinvention, Matthew and his father Terry tell the story of the difficulties of living with HIV in the age of the DUP - set against the backdrop of the abuse Matthew has received; adapted into a terrifying stage performance!


Type of film
Running Time
11 min
Nicky Larkin
Nicky Larkin
Executive Producer
Patricia Moore
Jules Lyndon
Director of Photography
Jennifer Atcheson
Graeme Denny, Terry Grew
Diplomat M, Tony Fitz

Production status


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Last updated 10th January 2020

Production Company

Supported by BFI NETWORK

Nicky Larkin