(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Reverend's Preview: TransNation Film Fest Embraces All


One could argue that the last thing Los Angeles needs is another film festival. However, last year's inaugural TransNation Film Festival succeeded as a more in-depth exploration of our trans community than even most LGBTQ events provide. The fest returns October 13th-15th at the Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood.

Presented by St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a community health center in LA that serves one of the largest populations of transgender patients in the country, the festival’s mission is to "honor our history and nurture emerging voices while celebrating and showcasing trans culture’s cinematic achievements and social impact throughout the world." Hosted by Zackary Drucker (filmmaker, artist and producer of Transparent), the TransNation Film Festival is a three-day event featuring an unique program of works by emerging and established filmmakers, as well as rare and under-seen repertory gems and classics that reflect the trans experience.

“I can’t imagine a more dynamic, challenging, and crucial time for us to build community around art and storytelling,” said Drucker. “We programmed this year’s festival to highlight filmmakers and subjects that keep us critical, galvanized and empowered. Moving through time and around the world, we’re featuring vintage and cult films alongside subversive and groundbreaking narratives of today."

Festival highlights will include an October 14th tribute to The Cockettes, the legendary San Francisco theatrical troupe, featuring photographs, an art exhibition, and screenings of three rare Cockettes-made films: Tricia's Wedding, Elevator Girls in Bondage and Palace. The screening of Palace will be accompanied by a live score by Kristian Hoffman. This exhibition of original Cockettes costumes and photographs will be shown for the first time in Los Angeles. Founding Cockette and photographer Fayette Hauser will be in attendance. Also, The Starbooty Trilogy, a cult classic from RuPaul’s early public access days, will screen with a midnight dress-up party. All those who dress up will be photographed on the red carpet and are invited to attend a pre-party contest on the patio.

Two new and acclaimed social justice documentaries that explore issues at the core of the mission of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center will screen. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, directed by Academy Award-nominated David France (How to Survive a Plague) will open the festival on October 13th. One of the film’s subjects, trans activist Victoria Cruz, will be present in conversation with St. John's CEO Jim Mangia, who knew Johnson. Also screening is Strong Island, the Sundance 2017 Special Jury Award winner for Storytelling. Yance Ford, the film’s director and subject, will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A.

The festival’s ground-breaking shorts program features world premieres and new works by emerging and acclaimed trans filmmakers as well as those working with trans themes, including Rhys Ernst, Luis De Filippis, Rosie Haber, Rain Valdez, Harriet Fleuriot, Sarah Cockings, Wes Hurley and Nathan M. Mille.

Also screening will be the West Coast premiere of Trans Youth, a nuanced verité documentary following the lives of trans millennials in Austin, Texas, as well as a sneak peek of the forthcoming HBO documentary short film 15: A Quinceañera Story. The short will air in 2018 and follows transgender teen Zoe Luna getting ready for her quinceañera in Los Angeles. Luna and filmmaker Matthew O’Neill will be in attendance.

Not to be missed is a rare big-screen presentation of 1970's Myra Breckinridge. The first depiction of a trans character financed by a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox), this gender-bending comedy written by Gore Vidal is equally loved and loathed. Its eclectic cast includes Raquel Welch, John Huston, film critic Rex Reed, the great Mae West, and pre-stardom Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck. It will screen October 14th at midnight.

TransNation Film Festival is but one element of the TransNation Festival 2017, a week-long celebration of the trans community that also includes ELEGANZA, the official closing gala. It will be held the night of Saturday, October 21st at the Cicada Club in downtown LA. ELEGANZA will honor trailblazers in the trans community including Jazzmun Crayton, an actor and advocate for the trans community for more than 30 years who will be the recipient of the “Marsha P. Johnson Trailblazer Award.” Performers at the event include the evening’s emcees, Candis Cayne and Laith Ashley, DJ JD Samson, along with Peppermint, Shea Diamond, and Gia Banks.

Proceeds from the film festival and ELEGANZA will benefit the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center’s Transgender Health Program. Visit their website to purchase tickets or for more information.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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