On Friday, Assistant Professor of Film Hao Zhou and Unity House co-hosted a film screening at the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater in celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility. The event featured a total of 11 LGBTQ+ short films, ranging from animation to documentary, exploring various aspects of the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals.
The films showcased at the screening were a powerful tribute to the diversity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. Each film provided a unique perspective on the experiences, challenges and triumphs of individuals within the community, leaving the audience with a deep sense of empathy and understanding.
One of the standout films was “The Beauty President,” a documentary about Joan Jett Blakk, an activist and drag queen who launched a United States write-in presidential campaign. The film explores the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality, offering a powerful message of empowerment and resilience. Aside from her presidential bid, the film follows Blakk’s journey organizing campaigns for the rights of LGBTQ+ people during the AIDS epidemic. Though she faces significant challenges and discrimination, she remains determined to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. In an interview in the film, Blakk says, “People watch us and shake their heads. To me, it means they don’t have the ability to realize beauty, and they should shake their heads to the president who is doing nothing on healthcare.” The film highlights the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and its ability to overcome adversity through solidarity and determination.
Another powerful film was “A Significant Name,” a documentary about a Chinese immigrant named Banban who lives in the southern U.S. The film explores the challenges she faces as a queer immigrant. Banban’s name is gender neutral, breaking away from traditional gender roles. She prefers using her Chinese name instead of her English name, and she interprets her Chinese name in the film by saying, “My name doesn’t root me in a physical place. It roots me in an idea that transcends gender. It connects me to my home, my lineage, my bloodline, my heart.” The film also highlights how an inclusive family can offer support for a person exploring their sexuality. Banban’s story is a testament to the flexibility of LGBTQ+ individuals and the importance of creating safe spaces for marginalized communities. The film also discusses the importance of women breaking gender roles and stereotypes. For example, Banban’s neutral name and her androgynous fashion style challenge traditional gender roles, and the film explores how women can be empowered by breaking away from these feminine stereotypes.
The film screening also highlighted the diversity of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community by showing the inner thoughts of queer people. For example, “Our Bed is Green” is a sci-fi short film that explores the protagonist’s hidden desire to be with her best friend. It depicts a future world with virtual reality contact lenses which people can use to experience another life. The protagonist, who has a boyfriend, creates a copy of her friend in a virtual reality simulation and uses it to have a romantic encounter with her, before meeting back up with her boyfriend and friend in the real world. This virtual reality provides a space for her to drop her disguise and explore her desires. The film was a poignant reflection on the loneliness of repressed sexuality.
Overall, the event was well-organized, with excellent technical support and a welcoming atmosphere. The audience was diverse and engaged, with many individuals attending the reception that followed the screening to discuss the films and their impact. The film screening was a powerful tribute to the International Transgender Day of Visibility, and it succeeded in its mission of raising awareness and promoting understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. The event highlighted the importance of art in promoting empathy, understanding and social change, and it showcased the potential of storytelling in creating safe spaces for individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.