Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Transgender lives on the Silver Screen


Jenzi Russell stars in the new Macy Gray video "Stop Drop Roll," directed by Collier Landry and Guido Fabris. Photo: Courtesy SF Transgender Film Festival
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On its 20th anniversary, the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (SFTFF) will present its largest program ever, including an expanded international program with films from more than a dozen nations, and an opening-night anniversary gala with a new music video by singer Macy Gray. Opening on Friday night, Nov. 10, at the Roxie Theater (3117 16th St.), the three-day program includes documentaries, music videos, animation, and dozens of narrative short films.

SFTFF, the world's first transgender film festival, screens "stories told by and starring transgender and gender non-conforming people," said artistic director Shawna Virago in a telephone interview with the B.A.R. "Hollywood is still getting it wrong" by making films with cisgender people playing roles of transgender people, said Virago. "We started at a time when most film festivals would not screen films about transgender people, and we are proud of our history of supporting transgender and gender variant filmmakers. We were founded by D.I.Y. queer punks," and have kept that D.I.Y. quality. "We are committed to having a counternarrative to the increasingly assimilationist world of transgender reality stars."

STIFF will never screen a film "with cisgender people playing transgender people," she emphasized. "We are here to give opportunities to transgender and gender non-conforming filmmakers and actors."

Scene from director Sarolta Jane Crump's "The Gold Fish Casino." Photo: Courtesy SF Transgender Film Festival

On opening night, Virago said she is "thrilled and excited" to screen the new music video by Macy Gray "Stop Drop Roll," the story of a gender-fluid choreographer named Jenzi Russell. "It's a beautiful music video all about accepting yourself regardless of what other people say," said Virago.

Other films on the schedule include "The Gold Fish Casino," "a queer musical that tells the story of a plucky salmon forced by a lack of water to gamble her eggs to get upstream," according to the program.

"Sununu: The Revolution of Love" is the story of trans dad Fernando Machado becoming an international news sensation when he announces he's pregnant with his trans woman partner Diane Rodriguez. According to the program, the film "is an intimate portrayal of a couple getting to grips with parenthood while they challenge ideas of gender roles. With access to the new family in its earliest days, we see how this remarkable duo balance parenting with a career in activism."

"Limina" is about a "curious gender-fluid child named Alessandra, who embarks on a path of kindness that will forever change the lives of the townspeople in a quaint and picturesque village. The protagonist, Alessandra, is a male-bodied, gender-fluid eight-year-old who demonstrates compassion towards fellow townspeople" (program notes.)

"After the Date" is about the relationship between Emma, a trans woman, and a new romantic interest, Nate. The two are brought together by Emma's interest in photography. Emma fears rejection from her new boyfriend. Their bond is tested after Emma experiences harassment by a police officer. The film depicts a loving relationship between a trans woman and a cisgender, straight man.

"My Femme Is a Reflection." Directed by Jai Lei Yee, this experimental short highlights a survivor's journey in learning to lean into "femmeness" while staying vulnerable, tender, and fierce.

"Socorro." This short film by Maria Breaux tells the story of lonely musician Socorro, who exists in a faraway time in a desolate place where money has been replaced by obsidian stones. When a beautiful femme fatale provides an opportunity for revenge, Socorro can't resist.

The full line-up and ticket information are available at According to Virago, advance tickets are "definitely recommended" because many screenings are expected to sell out. Tickets are $12-$15, and nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.


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