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Trans Cinema Is Here and Now: 6 Highlights From Frameline, Plus 6 Trans Films You Should Check Out at Outfest

Trans Cinema Is Here and Now: 6 Highlights From Frameline, Plus 6 Trans Films You Should Check Out at Outfest

It’s about time that a multifaceted and diverse representation of
trans themes, stories, and characters that mirror, validate, educate, and
empower trans folks are being expressed and seen through the medium of
film/media! Trans Cinema is hot, here, and now! More trans stories are expressed
in film/media than ever before. As a queer, trans filmmaker and artist, I am
excited to see so many empowering new trans films being made! During Frameline:
The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, I saw several amazing, diverse,
and riveting trans feature films; Kumu
, Drunktown’s Finest, 52 Tuesdays, and Something Must Break as well as two trans shorts film programs; Transtastic!
and The City Of Shy Hunters. The City Of Shy Hunters is a new trans shorts
program that focuses solely on trans masculine films. This was the first year
that it debuted at Frameline.

This year at Frameline, I didn’t have a chance to see every single
trans feature film because there were just too many of them! Where as in years past, I did see every trans feature film in the festival line-up as well as Transtastic!, the trans shorts program,
curated by the talented and wonderful, Shawna Virago and The San Francisco
Transgender Film Festival. Virago is a San Francisco based transgender musician,
writer, performer, and the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Transgender
Film Festival. Either way, here’s some highlights:

Who Do You Think You Are?

One of my favorites from this year’s Transtastic! line-up were
Who Do You Think You Are? A narrative
French short film by Marie Loustalot. I resonated with the trans protagonist,
enjoyed the story, sound design, and the pacing of the film. I would like to
see this short made into a feature. I am partial towards French Cinema; contemporary
as well as the French New Wave.

Transforming Family

Transforming Family, directed by Canadian, Remy Huberdeau is a
diverse, educational, and fascinating short documentary about trans and gender
fluid parents or parents-to-be in contemporary North American society. I found
every interview authentic and it was very insightful to hear the first hand
point of view of trans and gender fluid parents and parents-to-be. Transforming Family is the first film
that I’ve seen that explores a diverse range of experiences and subjects
exploring the themes of family from the perspective of parents and
parents-to-be with the complexities of trans and gender fluid identities. It is
a subject that needs to be explored more in cinema. It’s an educational
documentary for all that view it. For me as an insider and filmmaker of trans
cinema, I learned from watching this documentary. I would love to see Transforming Family made into a feature.
I appreciate that the subjects interviewed shared a diverse range of

Beyond The Mirror’s Gaze

Another wonderful Canadian short film by Artist/Director Iris Moore is
Beyond The Mirror’s Gaze. Beyond The Mirror’s Gaze is a whimsical,
tender, and imaginative animation. I love the style of the animation and the
interchanging of body parts; facial features, eyes, and genitalia, to show the
playful explorations of gender, desire, and identity in this sweet and short

Gender Games

Gender Games, directed
by Veronica Lopez and Meg Smaker is about a middle-aged transwoman who after a
30-year absence returns to college and joins the women’s basketball team. I
really enjoyed this documentary that touched upon themes of aging, acceptance, and
making a commitment to what one is passionate about and doing it. It’s an
inspiring and insightful documentary that stands solidly on its own as a short

Sticks and Stones

Lastly, the Bay Area’s very own, Sticks
and Stones
directed by transgender filmmaker Silas Howard, with
cinematography by Ana Grillo, is a documentary about Bambi Lake, a transsexual chanteuse,
pre-Aids 1970’s Polk Street hustler turned performer in the 1980’s Punk Scene
in San Francisco. The cinematography by Ana Grillo is beautiful. It’s so
important for queer/trans herstories/histories to be documented and it’s even
better when the stories come from the source—Bambi herself.  I found this documentary herstorically engaging,
intriguing, and compelling. I wanted to know more about this golden age that
Bambi Lake sang, talked, and performed about. There was one part that was
poignant and sad when she said something to the degree that there were only
three golden years in a row in one’s life and she experienced that during the
Pre-AIDS years in the 1970’s on Polk Street. Bravo to director, Silas Howard to
let Bambi’s story be told on screen, from the source with all of her glamour
and grit of the shine and s*it of her career and life.

Kuma Hima

Moving on to the feature films, I’m super surprised that Kumu Hina, a new documentary directed by
Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson will not be screening this week at OUTFEST, The Los
Angeles International LGBT Film Festival. Kumu
was one of the best standout films in Frameline38. Before the
screening of Kumu Hina in San
Francisco, to my surprise that melted into joy and gratitude, Kumu Hina herself
was at the Castro Theatre in person for the Frameline38 screening. It was
amazing! There was a call and response with one of her family members before
the film began in Hawaiian. LGBTQ identified Pacific Islanders and Hawaiians
were in the audience. There was a call and response between some members of the
Hawaiian community in attendance and Kumu Hina. It was a very powerful and
commanding introduction to the film. Kumu Hina and others were dressed in
native Hawaiian outfits. 

Kumu Hina is an
incredibly poignant and moving documentary. I have never seen a trans film or
any film about Hawaii and Hawaiians regardless of the trans component like Kuma Hina. The feature documentary
breathes with life and is very powerful, educational, raises awareness of the
impacts and history of American colonialism that Native Hawaiians have endured,
as well as highlights trans themes and experiences. Kumu Hina is a documentary about Kumu Hina, a respected teacher of
traditional Hawaiian culture, practices, and arts who happens to be a Mahu, a
transgender woman. The documentary intimately weaves her challenging personal
life with her newly married Tongan husband; their cultural challenges and deep
love for one another with her powerful impact as a respected community leader
and teacher. Her impact and example is in particular palpable and empowering to
Ho’onani, a sixth-grad tomboy who identifies as being “in the middle.” The 10-minute standing ovation at the
Castro Theatre during the end of the film and the roar of the audience before
the Q&A with Directors Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Kuma Hina was an event I
was grateful to attend in person.  Kumu Hina is not to be missed and best
seen on the big screen with a film festival audience.

To end things off, here is my list of Trans feature films and trans related programs to
see at Outfest if you happen to be in LA this week (you can find more information and buy tickets here). I’ll be back to talk about them soon enough.

*Drunktown’s Finest, Written/Directed by: Sydney Freeland, 2013, USA

*My Prairie Home, Written/Directed by: Chelsea McMullan, 2013, Canada

*Kate Bornstein Is A Queer & Pleasant Danger, Written and Directed
by: Sam Feder, 2013, USA

*52 Tuesdays, Written by: Matthew Cormack, Directed by: Sophie Hyde,
2013, Australia

*Something Must Break, Written by: Ester Martin   Bergsmark and Eli Leven, Directed by:
Ester  Martin Bergsmark, 2013, Sweden

*Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, Directed by: Sandrine Orabona and
Mark Herzog, 2014, USA

There is only one shorts program at Outfest titled, Trans Shorts.

Also, be sure to check out the screening of Transparent at OUTFEST.
It’s a new TV show with a trans feminine character that explores family,
relationships, and trans identity.  I
watched the first episode and can’t wait to see the entire first season that is
currently in production! Transgender artists and filmmakers Rhys Ernst and
Zachary Drucker work on Transparent. I can’t say enough about how important it
is to collaborate, consult, and hire trans filmmakers to work on trans related

Ewan Duarte is an artist, writer, and award-winning independent
filmmaker who lives and works in the SF Bay Area. He holds his MFA in Cinema
from San Francisco State University.

This post is running with permission from originalplumbing.com


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