As a cisgender, white, heterosexual woman, I won’t claim true understanding outside my individual bubble of lived experience. I do, however, feel it’s important to see stories from differing perspectives to expand our awareness of humanity as a whole. It is also important for people to see themselves represented in film and media. In mainstream film, trans stories are hard to find and when one appears, the parts are often played by cisgender individuals. This festival season we have been privileged to receive three submissions by filmmakers who believe in presenting strong trans narratives in documentary and fiction.
Being Sascha is a fascinating exploration of gender identity and expression from the viewpoint of Sascha who is trans non-binary. Sascha reveals the pathway to realizing their identity and also their experience in society as a person who does not present as “obviously” a boy or a girl.
A central theme in this documentary short is the importance of visibility. The more one sees others like themselves, the freer they feel to accept and show the world who they are. Through visibility, these differences can become more normalized in society. Sascha also poses the question, just because a person visually presents one way, do we really know who they are and how they identify? Sascha has a strong voice and is a cool and insightful human. This documentary is a must-see and I dare you to come away from it without some expansion in your thinking. On top of having winning content, this film is shot in such an artful way with a score to match.
Being Sascha is paired with the documentary feature, Mom & M, a slice of life of a modern American family. We are introduced to Elise, a social media influencer, Nikki, an MFA student and writer, and their adopted daughter, Sansa, who is battling leukemia. As they deal with Sansa’s illness, Nikki comes out as transgender. Nikki and Elise have real, honest conversations about what these experiences and changes mean for their family, individual identities, and show us the strength that can be found in one’s chosen family.
Juliet, an American Spectrum short within the Growing Up Block (this short is only available in Indiana) tells the story of Serena, a shy trans teen who is preparing to try out to play the lead in her high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. This story is a tender, intimate look into Serena’s experience with constant bullying, the lack of acceptance and understanding by her peers, and finding the strength to pursue her dreams despite these challenges. Fantastic cinematography and a direct focus on the character and her perspective allow the viewer to feel along with Serena.
I am excited for you to experience these stories and I hope you will see yourself in some of the narratives presented in this year’s festival.