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June 23, 2008

Frameline 32: "Transtastic"
FILED UNDER: "Pop Culture"
TAGS: drag queensFramelineHBOHIV / AIDSHIV-positiveLGBT CinemaSan Franciscotransgender
By Trevor

"BEND IT"
Director: Jules Nurrish
Trevor's Rating: 3 / 5 Stars

This was a very short, three minute whimsical film out of London featuring a performance art piece with two female-bodied performers -- chests bound by a kind of black duct tape -- dancing to a song by bending back and forth. It read to me as a celebration of the ability to move our bodies freely and whimsically, without care. It was good natured fun.

"THE BOND"
Director: Michael T. Connell
Trevor's Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

What a charming little film! Basically, this short six minute piece features a father's reminiscing about his daughter's transition from male to female. I think his frank and honest commentary may have made some trans folks in the audience uncomfortable -- he talked a bit about mourning the loss of his son -- but I appreciated his candid disclosure. Before she transitioned, she served in the army, married, and had two kids! Oy vey! It was lovely to have the father and daughter both at the screening (and at the trans-filled afterparty). Very cute!

"DONNY AND GINGER"
Director: Jon Bush
Trevor's Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Trailer for HBO SHOUT Short Film Contest:

My friends hated this movie. I wasn't quite as offended as they were by its somewhat cliche story, but I'm getting ahead of myself. This film won HBO's LGBT "SHOUT" short film competition, giving director Jon Bush $15,000 to produce the flick (see trailer above). So in comparison to many of the other low-fi films included in this collection, it was fairly polished and professional looking. My friends took issue with the 10 minute movie's plot, which opens with a transgender sex worker asking a cop for a ride. There's clearly more to this relationship than meets the eye, as the burly male cop winds up taking the woman to breakfast. It turns out that the cop is the woman's father, and bitter estranged family dialogue ensues. My friends were upset that the only film directed by a non-trans person in this collection of shorts about trans people was the most stereotypical of the batch. It's a fair criticism. But taken out of the context of this screening, I think the film is fairly solid, if perhaps a bit stale.

"FELICIA"
Director: Tim O'Hara
Trevor's Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

What a charmer! This film was a delight. In eight minutes, it opened up a window into the life of Felicia Elizondo, a transgender woman facing the reality of aging alone. The film opens with her talking about her pets, a 17 year-old dog, a 18 month year old dog, and a 9 year-old cockatoo. Every morning when she wakes up, she makes sure to give the older dog and the cockatoo a good shake "to make sure they're still alive." Funny stuff. Felicia's been HIV-positive for many years, and has lost many of her friends to the disease. But she still has a group of friends that she makes sure to keep in touch with regularly, calling them every day or every other day. She's a gem, and I loved hearing her story. I'm glad this film was made.

"FOREVER'S GONNA START TONIGHT"
Director: Michelle Lawler
Trevor's Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

71 year-old Vicki Marlane is the oldest living, continuously performing drag performer in the world. She performs to this day over at Aunt Charlie's Lounge here in San Francisco, every Friday and Saturday night. I've actually seen Vicki perform before, and she's a real treat. This nine minute short documentary was BRILLIANT. I loved every second of it. Vicki is a trip and a half, hamming it up for the camera at every turn. She used to perform in carnival acts in the 1950s, sometimes filling in as "two of the four legs of the four-legged woman." She has many on stage stories to tell, many involving her "usual cocktail" of a stiff drink and sleeping pills. But hands down my favorite part had to be when she reveals her make-up secret: applying two pieces of clear tape to her forehead to stretch away a few years. Wow. Despite living with HIV for many years, Vicki still has the spirit of a 22 year old on stage. That resilient spirit shines here in this fabulous film. Get your hands on it if you can.

"THE ROLE I WAS BORN TO PLAY"
Director: Lukas Blakk
Trevor's Rating: 2.5 / 5 Stars

This short film wasn't short enough. Using nine minutes of clips from the movies She's the Man, Boy's Don't Cry, and Just One of the Guys, Blakk attempts to piece together a kind of personal gender monologue -- but the film is just a mess. Boy's Don't Cry is nothing light to throw around, and one scene flashes the movie's most violent scene, interspersed with a kind of inner monologue about why the narrator never hooks up with people he's not out to as trans. Using clips from other movies in this way is an interesting idea -- certainly many of us look to cinematic portraits of queer life to help us understand our lives and worlds -- but it's not executed particularly well at any point.

"THORN IN YOUR SIDE"
Director: Dean Hamer
Trevor's Rating: 3 / 5 Stars

I understood this making of this film to be almost about producing a historical record of a small piece of the transgender movement here in San Francisco, the Trans March. And basically, that's what you get here -- a glimpse at the March's activities and spirit. It's innocuous, very cute.

"TRANSFORMING HEALTHCARE"
Director: Derek Brockett, Ann McNair, Ethan Suniewick
Trevor's Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Okay, I'm a bit biased. Ethan Suniewick, the film's creator and primary director, is one of my best pals here in the city (my BFF Jackson is also featured here). Like Johanna's film that I blogged about yesterday, Ethan worked on this film over his second year at SF State for his Masters thesis project. But his film really is fabulously important. What I love about Ethan's film is that it has an applied practical purpose -- it's a short, 18 minute training video for health care providers. How cool is that? There's no jargon here, just real stories about trans people's experiences with providers, and suggestions for how providers can take steps to improve their trans-competency. One of the most troubling stories, for instance, comes from a transgender woman who works in a clinic in the city who went to the ER with a fever and bronchitis. Despite this, she found herself being hoisted into stirrups under a spotlight while a group of doctors looked at her vagina. Enraging! But the film is quite touching. Very smart, straight the point. Bravo, Ethan! We're so proud!

"UNCA TRANS"
Director: Allyson Mitchell, Christina Zeidler
Trevor's Rating: 2.5 / 5 Stars

This film was cute, if a bit silly. A transgender puppet living in the 2040's reminisces about life back in the early 2000's, before he moved back to "the land" to take over his family's farm. The agro-politics here are just a bit outrageous, but hey, it's always good to think about what we want our future to look like. So I appreciate this film's commitment to imagining it, however whimsically.

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