The other half of the wunderkind couple (with Drucker), Rhys Ernst prefers to stay behind the camera, where he can lend his directorial eye to short documentaries that explore the depth of the trans experience. His short film, “The Thing,” played Sundance in 2012. It follows a couple on a road trip to a mysterious roadside attraction, and includes a hilarious parallel between a trans man and his cat as they both struggle to find places to pee. Also a producer on “Transparent,” Ernst created the show’s title sequence and directed the final episode of season 4. He created the short docuseries “We’ve Been Around” with Focus Features, which won a GLAAD Media award in 2016. With Jill Soloway as executive producer, he created and directed “Transparent: This Is Me,” which was nominated for an Emmy in 2015. Always pushing boundaries, Ernst’s work investigates trans identity with style and nuance.
It feels like everyone is talking about “New Deep South,” Rosie Haber’s short docuseries exploring the lives of queer people of color in the South. Spurred on by the presumption that there are no queer people in the South, Haber (who identifies as gender nonconforming) and co-creator Lauren Cioffi set out to unmask those stereotypes and find people living out and proud in red states. Steeped in the vibrant immediacy of their subjects’ unmistakable style, the series looks like nothing else on TV, which is what probably earned it a debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. Haber was tapped to pen the adaptation of the iconic queer novel “Stone Butch Blues,” by transgender pioneer Leslie Feinberg, which they will also produce.
Seyi Adebanjo blends activism with filmmaking so passionately, they even teach at NYU about integrating artistic practice with social change. Raised in New York City and born in Nigeria, their 30-minute doc, “Oya! Something Happened on the Way to West Africa!” is a moving meditation on cultural, spiritual, and racial identities. Comparing attitudes and customs around gender fluidity from New York City to Nigeria, it is a personal film only Adebanjo could have made. Their shorter doc, “Trans Lives Matter!: Justice for Islan Nettles,” was about the murder of a black transgender woman in Harlem in 2013, and was screened by PBS Channel 13.
It would be hard to find a more vital trans story to put to film than that of Kate Bornstein’s, the incendiary barrier-breaking performance artist and author whose books have mentored countless young people out of their darkest times. Taken from the title of her book, Sam Feder’s “Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger” documents this transgender warrior in all of her grit and glory. Dubbing herself “Auntie Kate,” Feder follows Bornstein through a valiant battle with cancer, catching her in her New York home with her partner, the sex educator Barbara Carellas. It’s a valuable and moving record of a pioneer who inspired generations with her irreverence and fearlessness. Feder is currently in pre-production on a feature about trans visibility in the media, titled “Disclosure: Trans Lives Onscreen.”
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