New trans and gender diverse film festival forging new frontiers
We speak with Liz Alexander about a new film festival, tilde, which will showcase trans and gender diverse films and filmmakers.
How did the idea for tilde come about?
There is a combination of passions and frustrations that lay the groundwork from which the idea emerged. These include an ongoing frustration with the narrow and often distorted representation of trans and gender diverse people in film and the media more generally, and the difficulty accessing more diverse and authentic representations; a desire to exercise our politics and engage and build community in a creative way; a passion for films and a belief in their power to transform, agitate and educate and a strong commitment to trans advocacy and to the idea that gender oppression affects everyone. While in LA in 2013 I met the director of the LA Transgender Film Festival and he was very generous in encouraging us to set something up in Melbourne, so in one sense it was his idea! When I returned to Melbourne I put the word out to local people who I thought may be interested in scheming with me further and connected with the director of the Sydney Transgender International Film Festival, who has become our festival partner. The energy, skills and spirit were there so BOOM! tilde was born!
Who are the people behind tilde?
Team tilde is a bunch of queer rabble rousers including Zoe Birkinshaw, Lennox Cakes Diamonds, Claire Henry, Cerise Howard, Ash Pike, Gem Stone, Eden St James and myself. We come from a range of genders including trans, gender queer and cis gendered, like myself. Our backgrounds span across art, film, community and health sectors, education and academia. The members of the team have long histories of being involved in a range of trans and queer activism, art and performance projects and we all bring unique experiences and skills to the mix. We hold a common vision of having more positive and authentic representation of gender diversity and a desire to create more dialogue between, as well as the sharing of stories across, communities.
Over the years we have seen more trans films in queer film festivals - do you think there is still a massive gap in representation for trans and gender diverse people?
It has been exciting to see the increase in films with trans and gender diverse content in queer film festivals world wide, and I have been exposed to some of my all time favourite trans or gender diverse films at queer film festivals. The range of films is obviously still limited, partly because of the large scope of queer film festivals. tilde is keen to showcase films that include a wide range of representations of trans and gender diverse people along with a range of life experiences and situations.We are keen to ensure we include films about a range of peoples’ lives and experiences including and apart from transition narratives. We are also interested in working with queer film festivals and other film festivals for that matter to support them in continuing to increase the amount of trans narratives included.
What are the main frustrations/challenges you think trans and gender diverse filmmakers have to deal with?
To begin with, as with any minority group, there are some trans and gender diverse people that just want to get on with their lives and not be living as ‘out’ trans and gender diverse in all areas of their lives, so it is hard to put a definitive finger on the number of trans and gender filmmakers. That said, I think they can find it challenging to access an industry that is already extremely cut throat. If they do make films with trans and gender diverse content, it can be challenging to get financing, mainstream distribution or interest. They may experience discrimination in the industry or pressure to only produce a particular type of film. For example trans and gender diverse filmmakers also make films that are about other things than trans and gender diverse narratives and there can be some expectation that that is their only area of interest or expertise.
What about mainstream festivals such as MIFF - do you think they ignore films that deal with trans issues? Or as in the case of Tropfest and the film Bamboozled which many people found offensive - is it a case of not educating themselves?
I think things are changing and mainstream festivals are featuring more films that deal with trans issues, as these films become more prolific. We hope that by bringing further attention to trans and gender diverse film and film makers that they can get more of the recognition that they deserve along with supporting the more mainstream film festivals to be more inclusive. We hope to collaborate and open dialogue. tilde welcomes the wider community to the festival, not just trans and gender diverse people and connected communities, but anyone with an interest in film and gender issues.
Could you tell us about three trans and gender diverse films that people may not know about but you think they should?
By Hook or by Crook (2001, Harry/Harriet Dodge & Silas Howard). This is a hot gender-queer buddy-flick in which Shy and Valentine are two grifters who join forces in an anti-authoritarian tale of camaraderie, trust, and redemption. It’s a great film, especially for its time, and is as rowdy as it is tender in its groundbreaking gender exploration and treatment of human fallibility, resilience, and dignity.
Queen of the Desert (2012, Alex Kelly). Hopefully people do know about this Australian documentary as it has screened in Melbourne, featured on ABC and has been taking film festivals world wide by storm! It takes us on the road with the local renegade hairdresser trainer and youth worker Starlady Nungari who starts hairdresser training for young people in remote aboriginal communities across the Central Desert. I think it is a really beautiful representation of gender identity and how it can be embraced. It also showcases some of the aspects of Aboriginal Australia that are often invisibilised: joy, creativity, healthy relationships, retention of culture and functional communities.
Madame X (2010, Lucky Kaswundi). This is an hilarious Indonesian film - a madcap adventure flick in which Adam, a cross dressing hair stylist must take up her make up bag and styling kit to save the world from an impending hostile doom. Adam must display a fabulous combination of martial arts and dance to defeat the evil enemy of the city!
And of course we will be supplying you with many more in the tilde program but mums the word on those ones!
You have a current call out for films - could you run us through the guidelines?
We are already receiving some fantastic and varied submissions and are hoping to receive many more! The guidelines are pretty broad: films made by trans and gender diverse filmmakers or films that feature trans and gender diverse content. These can be short and feature length films from all genres from across the globe.
We particularly welcome the following films. Those that celebrate all kind of gender diversity including trans, genderqueer, femme, sissy, tomboys, cross-dresser, butch or that wreak havoc with the gender norms. Films that depict the experiences of trans and gd people in and across many life situations, real or imagined. Films that have a hot, sexy, filth component. Feature trans and gender diverse people with all kinds of abilities. Older and young trans people. Show the experiences of allies, lovers and families of trans and gd people. Or include stories from and about sistergirl/brotherboy and gender diverse Aboriginal Australians and other groups who face additional layers of marginalisation due to their race or ethnicity. Films will be selected in line with our values which can be found on our website tildemelbourne.com Closing date for entries is July 31, 2014.
tilde film festival will run from November 21 -23, 2014, for more information go to tildemelbourne.com
(Image - By Hook or by Crook, 2001, Harry/Harriet Dodge & Silas Howard)