Section: Arts

Trans Short Film Festival showcases authentic experiences

On Friday night, with support from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Student LGBTQ+ Diversity Fund, Assistant Professor of Film Hao Zhou hosted a film screening in the Community Foundation Theater in celebration of International Transgender Day of Visibility. The mini film festival presented a total of eight transgender- and queer-themed short movies, ranging in style from animation to documentary, and portrayed various aspects of the lives of transgender people.

The festival started with a reception, as guests connected over snacks and drinks. The reception created a friendly and inviting atmosphere as well as a space for audiences to engage in conversation, share their thoughts and prepare for the coming screening. 

The fifth film, “How Not to Date While Trans” stood out as a boundary-breaking dark comedy that portrays the dating life of a Black trans woman and the problematic men she meets. Director Nyala Moon combined monologues and flashbacks to show the difficulties transgender people face when they search for romance. For instance, the protagonist, Andie, talks about how transgender people are “accused of deceiving men.” Then, before moving on to the next stage of dating, she has a coffee chat with her potential partner about LGBTQ+ topics. If there is a red flag, she will immediately stop dating them. The film ends with an emotional and reflective scene, where Andie is still struggling to enter a formal relationship as a transgender person. By dealing with heavy topics through humor and a light touch, the film highlights the daily intimate problems in the romantic and sexual lives of transgender people.

Another powerful film was “The Script,” directed by filmmakers Noah Schamus and Brit Fryer, which explores the complex dynamics inherent in medical encounters between transgender individuals and their healthcare providers. The film conducts an interesting experiment in a film studio by switching the role of the physician and the patient for people to experience the different perspective in the doctor-patient relationship, challenging the idea of doctor-centered medical intervention for transgender people. Specifically, the film analyzes intimate emotions, including feelings of uncanniness, vulnerability and the sensation of being interrogated during the interactions between the patient and the physician. This film emphasizes that it is essential to recognize the dignity and autonomy of every individual, irrespective of gender identity or expression. This movie was a creative and playful project, which invited people to reconsider the healthcare and power dynamics in gender-affirming surgeries with empathy and understanding.

After the screening, Zhou invited Moon to a virtual discussion on Zoom to do a Q&A session with the audience. During this session, the audience had the chance to learn about the stories, production techniques and personal experiences that inspired Moon’s work as a transgender filmmaker. Moon graciously shared insights into her creative process and how she used humorous narration and subjective personal experience to disclose romantic relationships and sexual desires of the transgender community, dating experience and self-exploration for transgender people, helping people from different gender groups to feel relatable. She also talked about the new feature film she is working on, which is about religious trauma for transgender people in their teenage years.

The Trans Short Film Festival at the Community Foundation Theater was a triumph of inclusivity and empathy. Through the medium of cinema, it offered a platform for transgender voices to be heard, seen and celebrated. The festival was proof of the power of storytelling to create a more inclusive and compassionate world. 

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