Back to IndieWire

14 Great Films To Watch This Month on Fandor’s ‘Breaking Binary’ Trans Spotlight

14 Great Films To Watch This Month on Fandor's 'Breaking Binary' Trans Spotlight

Wonderful streaming service Fandor launched a spotlight on trans films today cleverly titled “Breaking Binary.” It includes narratives and documentaries from filmmakers Monika Treut, Doris Wishman, Xavier Dolan and even non-LGBTQ legend Ernst Lubitsch.

The films were programmed to “challenge misconceptions and shine a light on the transgender experience.” “With the many facets of the transgender experience making news on a regular basis and with advances in LGBTQ rights making front page news almost every day,” Fandor said, “the time seems right to explore the varied and wondered world of transgendered cinema. With honest and inspiring representations of how fluid gender can be, these films are as interesting and complex as the lives represented and will challenge the way you think.”

The program launches today Xavier Dolan’s fantastic 2012 film “Laurence Anyways.” You can check out all the titles on Fandor’s website, and we’ve included descriptions of them all below. 

52 Tuesdays (2013) 114 minutes; directed by Sophie Hyde

A sixteen year-old’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons. Filmed over the course of a year, once a week, every week (only on Tuesdays), these unique filmmaking rules bring a rare authenticity to this emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility and transformation.

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2011); 70 minutes; directed by Marie Losier

Genesis P-Orridge has been one of the most innovative and influential figures in music and fine art for the last thirty years. A link between the pre- and post-punk eras, he is the founder of the legendary groups COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, and Psychic TV, all of which merged performance art with rock music. Celebrated by critics and art historians as a progenitor of “industrial music,” his innovations have transformed the character of rock and electronic music while his prodigious efforts to expand the boundaries of live performance have radically altered the way people experience sound in a concert setting. But that’s just the preamble to the story. Defying artistic boundaries, Genesis re-defined his art as a challenge to the limits of biology. In 2000, Genesis began a series of sex reassignment surgeries in order to more closely resemble his love, Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer), who remained his wife and artistic partner for nearly fifteen years. Genesis called this project “Creating the Pandrogyne,” an attempt to deconstruct two individual identities through the creation of an indivisible third. This is a love story, and a portrait of two lives that illustrate the transformative powers of both love and art. THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE documents a truly new brand of Romantic consciousness, one in defiance of the daily dehumanization of the body by the pervasive presence of advertising and pornography, conveying beauty, dignity and devotion from a perspective never-before-seen on film.

Transgender Tuesdays: A Clinic in the Tenderloin (2012) 61 minutes; directed by Mark Freeman and Nathaniel Walters-Koh

Twelve transgender pioneers of the first Public Health clinic in the United States share stories of their amazing life experiences in the “bad old days” with humor and insight. Compassionate healthcare changed their lives, even as the Tom Waddell Health Center in the Tenderloin of San Francisco ushered in “informed consent” as the new international model of care.

Split (1993) 58 minutes; directed by Ellen Fisher Turk

SPLIT is a documentary portrait of International Chrysis, a New York “show girl” and drag queen. Surreal herself, Chrysis was one of Salvador Dali’s inner circle, a woman from the waist up, a man from the waist down. The movie penetrates Chrysis’ hidden world of transsexual and drag queens, hormones, drugs and prostitution, a dark world she lights up with humor, wit and glamour. Through cross cutting, the documentary reveals the illusion and reality of International Chrysis. She’s a burlesque queen who spouts philosophy and performs in a style between vaudeville and Dietrich. Chrysis was a gay man who recreated himself as a Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Barbie doll amalgam. She sang, danced and stripped her way from seedy clubs to glamorous night spots, popped out of cakes, toured Europe, and starred on Broadway and in films. The documentary portrays Chrysis’ life with the same wit and irreverence she lived it, allowing us to see through the veneer to the pain beneath. Chrysis lived thirty-nine years and died of cancer caused by seepage from the wax and silicon breast implants, a victim of her own creation.

Dinah East (1970) 89 minutes; directed by Gene Nash

In 1950s Hollywood, a transvestite fools the world into believing he is a glamorous movie diva. When he dies, the secret is out and the film proceeds to tell the story of his relationships with friends and intimates, including a lesbian wardrobe designer, a gay matinee idol (with whom he had an affair), a protective lawyer and washed up prize fighter who becomes his chauffeur.

Let Me Die a Woman (1978) 78 minutes; directed by Doris Wishman

Mature audiences only.

From Doris Wishman, the “Queen of Exploitation,” comes LET ME DIE A WOMAN, one of the most jaw-dropping and unclassifiable films ever to ooze forth from the 1970s grindhouse. A stunningly sordid shockumentary on the medical condition known as gender dysphoria, this docu-style sleaze-fest includes unabridged interviews with post-ops, bull dykes and drag queens, probing anatomical examinations and real medical stock footage from an actual sex change operation!

Riot Acts also known as Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music Performance (2009) 72 minutes; directed by Madsen Minax

RIOT ACTS is a ‘trans-fabulous’ rockumentary representing the multi-dimensional lives of transgender and gender variant musicians. A first-hand perspective of the intersections between gender performance and stage performance, RIOT ACTS suggests that identities and bodies are undeniably political, and the journey within a trans experience isn’t always one of tragedy, but one of creativity and joy.

XXY (2007) 86 minutes; directed by Lucia Puenzo

For just about everybody, adolescence means having to confront a number of choices and life decisions, but rarely any as monumental as the one facing fifteen year old Alex (Inés Efron) who was born an intersex child. As Alex begins to explore her sexuality, her mother invites friends from Buenos Aires to come for a visit at their house on the gorgeous Uruguayan shore, along with their sixteen year-old son Álvaro (Martin Piroyanski). Alex is immediately attracted to the young man, adding yet another level of complexity to her personal search for identity and forcing both families to face their worst fears.

I Don’t Want to Be a Man also known as Ich möchte kein Mann sein (1919) 45 minutes; directed by Ernst Lubitsch

In I DON’T WANT TO BE A MAN, a teenaged tomboy, tired of being bossed around by her strict guardian, impersonates a man so she can have more fun, but discovers that being the opposite sex isn’t as easy as she had hoped. What ensues is a gender-bending comedy that was decades ahead of its time.

Aravani Girl (2009) 53 minutes; directed by Peter Spenceley

Sixteen-year-olds Palani and Karthik want to become “ladyboys.” They’re bullied in school and beaten by their families. Their parents would like to see them grow up as normal boys but they’re falling deeper and deeper into the world of the “Aravanis.” Loved as dance performers but hated as homosexuals, their stories emblazon the inner conflicts of India’s gender culture today.

Children of Srikandi also known as: Anak-Anak Srikandi (2012) 73 minutes; directed by Yulia Dwi AndriyantiLaura CoppensHera DanishDian EggieOji IjoAngelika LeviStea LimAfank MarianiImelda Taurinamandala, and Winnie Wibowo

The mythical figure of Srikandi, a female figure from the Indian Mahabharata epic that changes gender to live and fight as an equal among men, is the inspiration and role model for this anthology of stories on the state of alternate sexualities in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. The result is eight highly personal and profound perspectives on lesbian, bisexual and trans-identity life in Islamic Indonesia. CHILDREN OF SRIKANDI is a collaborative effort directed by the Children of Srikandi Collective.

She’s a Boy I Knew (2007) 70 minutes; directed by Gwen Haworth

Filmmaker Gwen Haworth turns her camera on her family for this down-to-earth grassroots documentary that follows her transition from male to female over the course of several years. This thoughtful film is less a detailing of surgeries and more a meditation on family ties, a mapping of the transitions that take place within blood relationships, friendships and love over a time of great personal transformation. Through one-on-one interviews and animation, Haworth gives plenty of space for her mother, father, sisters, wife, and best friend to tell their stories and share their reactions to the ongoing process of her transition. Their words are at times painful to hear, but the sheer honesty of Haworth’s family in recounting their fear, anger, understanding and support provides an exceptional snapshot of one family’s journey in coping with change and learning to love Gwen as she is, much as she learns to do the same.

Max (1992) 27 minutes; directed by Monika Treut

‘Max’ is a portrait of Max W. Valerio who used to be Anita Valerio, a lesbian Native American from San Francisco. A couple of years ago Anita felt that she was no longer comfortable in her female body. Identifying herself as a heterosexual male, she embarks on a journey to become a man. With Max Wolf Valerio.



Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox