San Francisco Transgender Film Festival Celebrates Twenty Years This Weekend
Time flies when your having a good time and doing good work. This weekend the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival returns to the historic Roxie Cinema in celebration of films made by or about transgender and/or gender non-conforming people.
“We started in 1997 by two friends of mine, Christopher Lee and Alex Austin,” explains Shawna Virago, who currently curates the festival. “I became Artistic Director in 2003. When we started, most film festivals would not screen transgender produced films. I am very proud of our history of advocating for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming film makers. Over the past 20 years, we’ve supported more than 1,000 trans artists.”
Virago explains why a trans specific festival is needed in light of the fact that Frameline, the city’s annual LGBT movie extravaganza, currently does include the T in its own roster of films.
“SFTFF provides a counter-narrative to the increasingly assimilationist world of transgender reality stars and celebrities,” she said. “Hollywood gets it wrong – VERY wrong. Come see trans and gender-variant people telling our OWN stories. Come see trans characters played by TRANS actors.”
For many of the filmmakers–and actors, being seen and heard is a decidedly uphill battle. “If you look at Hollywood or Online-streaming programs, you find a paucity of transgender stories, and rarely do trans people decide what stories should be told,” Virago said. “The decision makers still tend to be elitist straight white cis- guys with the maturity level of adolescent boys, so we still have a long way to go films being made that reflect our lives.”
This year, Virago hints, the festival might offer a special guest to it’s audience–a gender non-conforming pop star. ”
“This year we’re thrilled to screen a new Macy Gray music video, Stop Drop Roll,” she said. “Rumor has it that Macy Gray might show up. It stars gender-fluid choreographer Jenzi Russell. At the same screening is 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. It’s directed by Sarolta Jane Vay whose work exemplifies a commitment to social justice.”
The festival’s closing night attraction promises to be just as fascinating, according to Virago. “Closing night is Sunday November 12 at 6pm and we’re screening Sununú: The Revolution of Love,” she said. “This film is from Ecuador and is about trans Dad Fernando Machado who became an international news sensation last year when he announced he was pregnant with his trans woman partner Diane Rodriguez. This film is a touching portrayal of a couple getting to grips with parenthood while they challenge complex ideas of gender roles.”
Diversity of films and subject matter is always the goal, and you don’t have to be trans to enjoy the festivities. “We get many, many more submissions than we can screen,” Virago noted. “We are committed to diverse programming and touch on subjects, such as police abuse, that that many mainstream festivals shy away from. We have inspiring documentaries, jaw dropping animation, hard-hitting short films, and genre-busting experimental films. And always all genders are welcome!”
Virago points out that the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival is the world’s first and longest running film festival of its kind. “For 20 years, we’ve survived and thrived on our transgender smarts, sweat and love from the community,” she says with pride. “Come join us!”
20th Anniversary San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (SFTFF) November 10–12 Roxie Theater: (3117 16th Street @ Valencia, San Francisco CA) Tickets: $12–15 sliding scale
Shawna Virago, BTW, is also a musician. Check out her sublime song Last Night’s Sugar on You Tube!