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5 Trans Films You Must See On The Summer Film Festival Circuit

5 Trans Films You Must See On The Summer Film Festival Circuit

Trans people and characters are currently more visible than they have ever been in the mainstream media! Some stories of trans people this year have exploded into the mainstream media—making trans lives and realities more visible than ever before. As trans themes and experiences continue to make waves in the American psyche and worldwide in independent media as well as mainstream media, here are some reviews of new trans films to watch, savor, affirm, enjoy, validate, and experience at a queer/trans film festival near you this summer (all of them will be at Frameline, which kicks off today)!

Support queer/trans film festivals and queer/trans media by going out to see these films in a community context on the big screen!

“Two 4 One”

Writer/Director: Maureen Bradley

“Two 4 One” is a narrative dramedy about a trans man named Adam and what ensues when his ex-girlfriend contacts him, out of the blue. Adam and Miriam broke up over two years ago before Adam’s transition, when he was known as Melanie. Miriam requests Adam’s help with her artificial insemination kit that she received in the mail. She has less than 24 hours to inseminate. Adam helps Miriam out a little bit too much and not only ends up inseminating her yet ends up in her bed. Both Miriam and Adam wind up pregnant, unbeknownst to either of them, until further along in the film.

Adam grapples with being a man who is pregnant while still ascertaining what aspects and qualities of masculinity align with his most authentic self. He is on his path to get the ball rolling to plan his phalloplasty surgery when he discovers the unexpected news that he is pregnant. Miriam, on the other hand does everything in her power to get Adam back into her life, as her partner and create a family together—even at the expense of her polyamorous lifestyle.  Both characters and their worlds collide in a messy, complex, uncertain, vulnerable, and dramatic experience that unfolds in “Two 4 One.”

When life throws curveballs in the form of unplanned pregnancies, ex-girlfriends, invasive healthcare experiences that are triggering to trans individuals, student loan debt, and a potential sexual escapade that falls short due to one’s trans status, the viewer can truly empathize with Adam and the challenges that he faces as a trans man in contemporary society.

“Two 4 One” is the first feature length dramedy that explores trans male pregnancy. The film explores the complexities of love, gender, sexuality, family, pregnancy, relationship paradigms, and masculine ideals from a queer and trans perspective—a refreshing story for those who are in the queer and trans communities to see reflected back to them onscreen.

The film is highly recommended.

“Ascendance: The Angels Of Change Documentary”

Director: Debra Simone

If you live in the SF Bay Area, you do not want to miss the World Premiere of this amazing and fabulous documentary at the Frameline39 Film Festival! “Ascendance: The Angels of Change Documentary” shows the empowered visibility of a diverse community of trans youth, experienced mentors, and professionals at The Center for Trans Youth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

The documentary focuses on the process and preparations leading up to the 2014 Angels of Change Runway Show and calendar launch fundraiser in Los Angeles that a diverse group of trans youth will participate in. Trans youth at The Center receive guidance from trans mentors, professionals who work at The Center, and graduates of the program as they rehearse, engage with community, connect with their authentic selves, shine with strength, and empowered visibility as individuals and a community.   

It was wonderful and exciting to see a diverse range of trans youth receive integrated support from dedicated mentors, to watch their process of going through a rite of passage as young adults, to see the friend and community bonds that were built, and the empowerment that each individual feels shines on screen. This documentary is very hopeful and wonderful.

Bamby Salcedo is the program coordinator at The Center and is a pillar of dedication, love, inspiration, mentorship, nurturance, education, leadership, counseling, and an empowered example of a successful trans woman for the trans youth that she cares for, teaches, guides, and mentors. Documentaries that focus and showcase trans youth from empowered perspectives are few and far between. It was a joy to view this documentary and it leaves the viewer with a sense of hope for trans youth and all trans people to live empowered, supported, integrated, happy, and successful lives.

“Peace Of Mind”

Director: Cary Cronenwett

“Peace Of Mind” will have its World Premiere at Frameline39 and it is not to be missed! Originally, the feature film was titled, Kathy Goes To Haiti based on the novel by Kathy Acker. Tragically, the co-director, Flo McGarrell died during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, just weeks after the short film, Kathy Goes To Haiti was wrapped. Co-Director and close friend, Cary Cronenwett decided to create a movie in honor of Flo’s creative spirit and his life. It was also Cronenwett’s way of dealing with the immense grief and loss of a dear collaborator and close friend.

“Peace Of Mind” is an intimate personal documentary with a hybrid structure of archival footage of Flo’s life, art, films, interviews with Flo’s friends, intimates, family, and colleagues. The documentary also focuses on Flo’s impact as a queer and trans person on the lives of artists as well as queer, and trans identified Haitians in Jacmal, Haiti.

Flo was the director of FOSAJ Art Center in Jacmal, Haiti, a southern coastal town that was known for its artistic culture. Flo’s presence and work made a transformative impact on the lives of everyone connected to the art center during his time as the director of FOSAJ.  

Flo’s challenges as well as his achievements during his time in Haiti are interwoven in this documentary. The documentary is beautiful and tragic. Life is precious. Flo McGarrell made a positive and expansive impact on the lives of all who knew him. His art, films, and creative Spirit continues to live on.

“Finding Phong”
Directors: Swann Dubus, Tran Phuong Thao

“Finding Phong” is a candid, touching, intimate, and powerful documentary about Phong, a Vietnamese trans woman in her twenties who grapples to find and become her most authentic self.  Phong’s video diaries are interwoven in this personal documentary with doctor’s visits, conversations and connections with friends, family, her work life, personal life, and travels to Thailand for surgery.  The documentary shows over a year of her transformative journey to become the woman who she is meant to be.

Phong is the youngest of 6 children and grew up in a small village in Vietman. She lives and works in Hanoi. She is very close with her siblings and elderly parents and misses them immensely when she is in Hanoi. Phong struggles with the challenge of becoming who she truly is while convincing her parents that she will be happier living as a woman.  Her elderly traditional parents do not understand her wish to become a woman. They do not have any experience with trans themes and experiences.

“Finding Phong” will make its North American Premiere at Frameline39. The Directors of the film will be in attendance at the screening. This is a very important film that brings visibility to a story that is often not heard or seen in independent or mainstream media. This is the first documentary that I have seen that focuses on the life and experiences of a Vietnamese Trans women. It is a compelling, intimate, powerful, and must see film!

“How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)”

Director: Josh Kim

You do not want to miss the Bay Area premiere of “How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)” at the Frameline39 Film Festival. Director Josh Kim’s feature film debut is dynamic and powerful. “How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)” is a poignant and touching narrative film about two brothers; Ek and Oat. Their parents died and they live with their Aunt and young cousin on the outskirts of Bangkok. The social realities of their lives show the unjust social inequities of the class divide in Thailand.

Ek is a 21 year old, out gay man. His boyfriend, Jai’s family is wealthy. Jai and Ek live in different worlds yet they are still drawn to one another. Ek works as a bartender and his Aunt is a house-cleaner. Their family barely gets by financially. The black market runs almost every business in their town. This social and economic systemic corruption shows the unfair advantage that wealthier residents have when it comes time for the draft lottery.

Every year, all 21 year-old men must participate in the draft lottery at the Buddhist temple in their town. Drawing black means that one is excused from military service while drawing red means that one must participate in military service.  Young Oat does everything in his power as an 11 year old to make sure that his brother Ek will not be drafted into the Thai military. Oat doesn’t understand or even fathom the consequences that his actions will have.

Kitty, is a trans character in the film who is friends with Ek and Jai. All three experience the draft lottery in different ways that will change their relationships with one another. The film is seamless, engaging, moving, and shows the unjust realities and limited opportunities that the poor face in Thailand.  I highly recommend going to see the Bay Area premiere of “How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)” on the big screen.

These are just a sampling of some of the trans films that will screen at the Frameline39 Film Festival in San Francisco (and other festivals). The Festival begins today and goes until June 28th. Check out the full festival guide and the rest of the trans films that will screen at the festival online: http://ticketing.frameline.org/festival/index.aspx?FID=52

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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