Translations Gives Transgender Artists more Creative Control

Over the years, film festivals in Seattle have presented an opportunity for people to tell their stories—removing the need for a typical Hollywood budget, and just as importantly, a typical Hollywood script. Without these barriers, people and communities have had an avenue to celebrate their identities and show perspectives not seen in the mainstream media, two elements that are very much present in Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival.

Since 2006, the Translations Film Festival has been a home, not only to productions surrounding transgender topics and issues, but also to films produced and directed by the transgender community. Translations originally began as part of the Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle, but has since expanded into an entity of its own, with screenings spread across multiple days and a variety of venues throughout city.

Translations has sparked the interest of many of our own students at Seattle University and generated many words of praise and support.

“We see a lot of LGBTQ film festivals, but most of them focus on gay and lesbian relationships or topics,” said Cody Ireland, a sophomore English major and Co-President of Triangle Club. “To have a separate transgender film festival brings it out a bit more.”

He emphasized the importance of transgender representation in festivals such as this one, given its absence in the broader media landscape.

“It’s kind of hard for people to find transgender figures in the media and if they do they’re not necessarily well represented,” Ireland said.

Alex Chois, a sophomore Psychology major, commented on the importance of this festival as an opportunity for transgender issues to stand out from the broad umbrella of gender
and sexuality.

“[Translations] will showcase that ‘Hey, this is queer’ but it is also a different kind of queer,” Chois said. “It’s important to have a separate segment to give them the voice that they deserve.”

Chois believes that Translations presents a unique opportunity for Seattle U students to look at personal challenges and privilege in a way they hadn’t before.

“Seattle U prides itself on knowing its stuff, knowing about marginalized identities and knowing about privilege,” Chois said. “I think it’d be best to discuss the privilege they don’t usually think about, which is their gender.”

Sam Berliner, the festival’s director, has seen Translations change throughout its years and points to greater accessibility for filmmakers and diversification of subject matter as some of its most important areas of growth.

“A lot that has grown and evolved has to do with accessibility. People can now even shoot things from their phones,” Berliner said, referring to how filmmakers are no longer held back by a lack of equipment.

The emergence and spread of better filming technology has not only marked a shift towards a larger, more diverse pool of festival submissions, but has also helped change a prevailing power dynamic surrounding these films. Berliner explained how transgender people were previously confined to being actors in the productions of those privileged with equipment, but now have more creative control.

The emergence of the Trans New Wave movement has also influenced the Translations Film Festival Berliner describes the movement as an effort to push media surrounding the transgender community beyond just narratives of coming out. Instead, Trans New Wave works to present characters and stories that both are and are not majorly influenced by this single facet of their identity.
“[Trans New Wave] tries to talk about something else and embrace queer people being who they are,” Berliner said.

Among the various productions that will be a part of Translations, Berliner gave special attention to the festival’s opening film: “Major!,” available Thursday, May 12. It features the life and accomplishments of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a transgender woman of color that serves as an activist, elder and mother figure within the transgender community and was a leader in the Stonewall riots of 1969. In addition to the opportunity to watch this award-winning documentary, viewers will also be able to see Griffin-Gracy in person, as she will be at
the screening.

Translations is Thursday, May 12 to Sunday May 15 at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian, the Northwest Film Forum and the 12th Avenue Arts Building. For more information on the films, dates and tickets, visit translationsfilmfest.org.

Editor may be reached at entertainment@su-spectator.com

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