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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 9 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 19
Arts & Entertainment
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2014 Translations Film Festival preview

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

The ninth annual 'Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival' kicked off last night with the West Coast premiere of the live performance art event 'The Naked I: Insides Out' featuring Minneapolis' 20% Theatre Company. 'We [were] thrilled to have [this] group of performers from Minneapolis here [for Opening Night],' proclaimed Festival Director Sam Berliner. 'For Translations last year, our Opening Night was the wildly popular Gender Failure, a live performance starring Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote with animation by Clyde Peterson. With [these] live shows, the buzz in the air is even more heightened and our audiences love getting to interact with performers.'

As far as the feature films themselves are concerned, the lineup for this year's festival is maybe the most diverse and intriguing in all of Translations' short nine-year history. The North American premiere of the documentary Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger closes things out on Sunday, while Sundance favorite My Prairie Home with the aforementioned Rae Spoon gets a special gala presentation. Various short programs litter the schedule, while screenings of features from all around the world, including Sweden, the Philippines and New Zealand, are also showcased.

'The state of Trans film right now is really exciting,' says Berliner. '[It] even has a name, the 'Trans New Wave!' In general, the early wave of Transgender-themed films focused on mostly privileged people's stories of struggle and the step-by-step of their physical transitions. These were incredibly powerful and important representations, but at the same time there were populations whose voices were not yet being heard and [there were] so many more complex stories to tell.'

'The 'Trans New Wave' is telling [similar] stories of struggle and transition [but] for other communities, people of color and for individuals from all over the world, going beyond those themes to [tell] stories where the characters are Trans, but that isn't the focus of the film. We are at the point where so many audiences have the 'Trans 101' under their belt and are ready to watch and learn about other complexities of the human experience. It is an exciting time.'

Current Three Dollar Bill Cinema Executive Director Jason Plourde has been there from the start, and as one of the driving forces that helped make the Translations festival a reality here in Seattle, he's maybe seen this evolution in Trans-focused cinema better than just about anyone. 'The major change [from that first year] is that there's a larger volume of work and the quality in general is much better,' states Plourde with matter-of-fact directness. Filmmakers have better access to the means to tell their stories, and the films are more unique, diverse, and explore many genres.'

'As for the growth of [Translations], it's very exciting and satisfying. Seeing it succeed is great because it means we have interesting and strong work to show and we're helping artists and filmmakers bring visibility, understanding, and awareness of the Transgender community to even more people.'

In many ways, the most intriguing title on the docket is the Kate Bornstein documentary. One of the most well-known Trans activists in the entire world, this film will likely be the most complete portrait of the outspoken author, entertainer and educator yet. This fact is not lost on Berliner. 'The film takes you inside the life of an icon,' he proudly proclaims. '[The] film gives the audience not only an engaging and funny person that they know and love (she is seen as a Trans mother to generations of gender variant folk) but also a backstage pass to see the personal sides of Kate - which is remarkably engaging and powerful. Spending 73 minutes with [her] will leave the audience examining their own assumptions about gender, society, power, sexuality and life.'

But what is it exactly that makes her important? Why does her story matter? These questions and more are ones the programmer can answer with ease. 'Kate has written seven books including Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely and Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws,' says Berliner. 'Her work has helped Transgender and gender-variant people know themselves better and for years she has been a bridge for folks outside of the Trans community to promote better understanding [using] her insights on our shared humanity.

'Personally, myself and most of my friends all have our own copy of My Gender Workbook and the bright pink composition notebook can be seen in Queer and Trans bookshelves all over the world. Her presence in this film really shows how funny and insightful she is. Kate is a delight to watch for all audiences!'

For Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Translations is just one stop on the road to this coming October's Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. 'We have so much planned for [2014],' says Plourde with a smile. 'Most notably, we have a series in June at the Northwest Film Forum curated by artist Mark Mitchell. It's called 'Coming Out All Over: Queer Film Style' and looks at the work of costume designers in three very Queer films. I'd prefer not to focus on [those films] right now, but I can say the films span from the 1920s to the '80s and the first one is a silent-era film with live musical accompaniment.'

As for Translations, Jason couldn't be happier with what he, Sam and the rest of the team at Three Dollar Bill Cinema has produced for this ninth iteration of the festival. '[I]t's very exciting and satisfying,' he states. 'Seeing it succeed is great because it means we have interesting and strong work to show, and we're helping artists and filmmakers bring visibility, understanding and awareness of the Transgender community to even more people.'

And where does Translation go from here? 'I am very excited about the future of Translations,' answers Berliner. 'As the Trans community continues to evolve and grow, the films of the Trans New Wave will continue to progress and Translations will grow as well. I hope to continue having live performances and incorporating artists in many disciplines who are exploring gender, as I am always looking to create a rich and engaging program that grows with the community.'

Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival continues over the weekend at the Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave.). Tickets range from $8-$20, and a full festival pass is only $65. There is a free family program on Sunday, May 11, at 12:30 p.m., with the film A Self-Made Man presented in partnership with Gender Diversity. For complete capsule listings, tickets and a schedule of all films featured, visit http://translations.strangertickets.com or www.threedollarbillcinema.org.

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