Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Critic’s Corner: Translations Film Festival

    Trans portrayal in the media has often been one-dimensional, lacking meaningful concern for the wide-ranging and pervasive issues facing the trans community.

    Such representation often pigeonholes trans people, and cisgender audiences grow to understand a flawed and sensationalized idea of trans identity.

    For the past ten years, those involved with the Translations Transgender Film Festival have been working diligently to counteract this cycle. Each year the festival, put on by Three Dollar Bill Cinema, showcases a variety of films which strive to accurately portray trans people and their humanity. This year’s festival took place last weekend, May 7-10, at Northwest Film Forum.

    Film slots for the festival typically open around the beginning of January, and the submissions flood in quickly. Sam Berliner, director of the festival, and his team receive films from all over the world.

    After sifting through film after film, Berliner meets with those on the screening committee to decide which films are impacting enough to be included.

    “My hope for this year is really that our audience, if it’s a trans audience, is able to see themselves reflected on the screen and have that really affirming, powerful experience,” Berliner said.

    In order to do so, Berliner and his team choose films which showcase a wide variety of stories, messages and cultural experiences.

    One film this year titled “Transproofed,” directed by Andrea Ryan, is a comedic take on dating. The film portrays a girl named Ava racing around her apartment hiding objects that hint at her trans identity from her new date.

    One of last year’s films, “Boy Meets Girl,” directed by Eric Schaeffer, delivers a more heartfelt look into love as it tackles the emotional stress that comes with being a trans teen.

    Although Berliner was initially apprehensive about screening “Boy Meets Girl” due to negative portrayals of certain characters, fellow curator and screening committee member Elaine Wylie was adamant in her approval.

    “I thought that the balance of stories, of characters, of reactions of people and the way that those negative reactions were handled in the story by other characters made the story real and very well-rounded,” Wylie said.

    She stressed the importance of showing films that combat trans stereotypes.

    “I felt the story really could happen in the real world and had a good message,” she said. “I thought it would leave audiences with something powerful.”

    This year, films like “Remember me in Red” by Hector Caballos and “XXY” by Lucia Puenzo echo the sentiment that transgender life goes beyond what Berliner and Wylie call “trans 101” portrayal. Rather than rehashing the same ideas of coming out, transition, and surgery, Berliner hopes to use the power of film as a means for visibility and education.

    “It’s so empowering and affirming to see yourself reflected on screen,” Berliner said. “It’s not something that happens often for gender variant people and that’s what makes Translations so special.”

    What is portrayed on screen also has an impact on cisgender audiences. The Translations team takes pride in creating an accessible venue for those hoping to learn about transgender people and their experiences.

    Although the team acknowledges the importance of “trans 101” stories, they believe films should go beyond the stereotypical coming-out storyline by depicting trans people in everyday situations.

    Films like “Wrong Bathroom” by Shani Heckman and “Trannymal” by Dylan Vade and Chrys Curtis-Fawley use humor as a way of reminding audience members to move past their preconceived notions of gender.

    “Wrong Bathroom” outlines the need for gender inclusive restrooms by depicting the awkward interactions of bathroom etiquette, while “Trannymal” parallels coming-out conversations under the guise of cats wanting to be dogs and vice versa.

    “[Translations] is an opportunity and a window into a community people don’t often see, and so they have a really great chance to talk to people on a one-on-one level,” said volunteer coordinator Megan Duncan.

    By engaging the local community in films about a wide range of trans issues and experiences, Translations helps paint a more accurate picture of the trans spectrum in all its diversity.

    The editor may be reached at [email protected]

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