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A conversation with TRANSlations programmer StormMiguel Florez

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Finlandia — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema
Finlandia — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema

2022 TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival preview: A conversation with TRANSlations programmer StormMiguel Florez

It's no secret that I'm a big cheerleader for the TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival. Back when the event first began, I had the honor of helping program a few of these, even presenting a couple of the selections and headlining some post-film Q&As.

Now celebrating its 17th anniversary, TRANSlations has thankfully become a Seattle staple and a highlight of the local cinematic calendar. Beginning yesterday and running through Sunday, May 8, this year it's a hybrid presentation: a handful of live, in-person screenings are taking place at the NW Film Forum on May 7 coupled with a plethora of virtual screenings and events worth getting excited about throughout the weekend.

StormMiguel Florez — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema  

It's a lot to take in. I had quick conversation with first-time TRANSlations programmer StormMiguel Florez to chat about this year's festival. The following are the edited transcripts chronicling are all-too-brief conversation:

Sara Michelle Fetters: TRANSlations is back! It's the Seattle film festival that's nearest and dearest to my heart. It's a hybrid version this time around. What were the complications as far as programming was concerned?

StormMiguel Florez: I am excited for you to check out this year's amazing lineup! Honestly, there haven't really been any complications. We've had two years of virtual screenings, and getting back to one day in person and three days virtual has been pretty straightforward. It's like old hat now for so many of us to plan things virtually.

SMF: What have you learned over the past couple years of programming this festival during a pandemic? How have things for you and the Three Dollar Bill team evolved during this time?

SF: This is my first festival on the Three Dollar Bill Cinema team, but I worked for a long time with the San Francisco Trans Film Festival, and have been attending festivals virtually with my own film and helping to run and host various virtual events.

What I've learned is that it is totally possible to create memorable and exciting virtual events. I'm really hoping that most festivals continue with a hybrid model long after we come out of this pandemic. It's something that disability-justice communities have been doing and telling others to do since long before the pandemic, and we can really see now that there is no reason not to make events — especially film festivals — available virtually, even as live, in-person events are happening.

Framing Agnes — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema  

SMF: You're coming hot on the heels of the Seattle International Film Festival, which has moved from its traditional spot in mid-to-late May to the later weeks of April. Did this change how you programmed TRANSlations? Is there any worry about "festival fatigue"?

SF: We're not worried about festival fatigue. While there may be some crossover from SIFF's audience to ours and vice versa, TRANSlations is very much a community festival, where Trans, Nonbinary, gender-nonconforming people, and our allies come together to connect and celebrate.

We are screening Framing Agnes and Finlandia virtually May 5 thru 8 and in person at Northwest Film Forum on May 7. Those two films screened at SIFF, and we're hoping that [people] who saw them there are as excited about them as we are and encourage [those] who haven't seen them yet to catch them at TRANSlations.

SMF: Talk to me about the different passholder options of this year's festival, as you have a few of them.

SF: We have five of them: Our Hybrid Pass grants a person access to all VIRTUAL and IN-PERSON screenings. Our In-Person Only pass grants you access to our one day of IN-PERSON screenings. Our Virtual ONLY pass grants you access to all VIRTUAL screenings.

We also offer a Household Virtual Only pass for those who know they will be watching the virtual festival with more than one person. This is for folks who can afford to pay a little extra to cover the cost of [others] joining them.

And finally, we have our Access Virtual Only pass. This pass is for low-income audience members to enjoy all our virtual festival has to offer.

CAER — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema  

SMF: Your primary in-person event is the "Translations Mxxtape" on May 7 at the Northwest Film Forum, starting at noon and going for the entire day. Tell people what that is about and what they can expect.

SF: Mxxtape is one of four in-person screenings on May 7. That day we'll show our three centerpiece feature films, Finlandia, Framing Agnes, and CAER (CAUGHT), plus our specially curated in-person shorts program called Mxxtape.

SMF: The virtual program is incredibly diverse. How difficult was it for you and the team to make these selections?

SF: The team, which includes a volunteer screening committee and Three Dollar Bill Cinema staff, spends a couple months watching, reviewing, and discussing films. It is actually a very fun process, especially when we watch films together over Zoom and get to discuss them immediately.

For me, the hardest part is the deep desire to screen more feature films made by Trans and Nonbinary filmmakers, and the stark reality that most of our submitted feature films are from cis or non-Trans filmmakers. It highlights the sad truth that Trans and Nonbinary people are not getting the access and funding to tell our own stories, especially for narrative features.

By Hook or By Crook — Photo courtesy of Three Dollar Bill Cinema  

SMF: By Hook or by Crook is your archival presentation. Why this film? Why now?

SF: This is a film near and dear to my heart. By Hook or by Crook, directed by and starring Harry Dodge and Silas Howard, was released in 2001, so it's been out for just over 20 years. It was the first feature film I ever saw made by and about Trans people, and it still is one of only a handful of feature narratives I've ever seen made by Trans filmmakers. I saw it in a room full of Queer and Trans folks in San Francisco in the early 2000s at an old arthouse theater called the Red Vic. We realized that we just missed presenting a 20th anniversary screening, but we didn't want that to keep us from presenting and celebrating this very important film in Trans cinema.

SMF: Let's talk about the virtual forums and events, including the return of "This Ends at Prom." You have a variety of them, from the educational to the instructive to the just plain fun. Tell me more about these.

SF: "This Ends at Prom" is a weekly podcast analyzing the staying power of womanhood featured in coming-of-age and teen-girl movies from the Queer, feminist cisgender, and Transgender perspectives of wives BJ Colangelo and Harmony Colangelo. This year they'll be returning on Sunday, May 8, for a live podcast to discuss the 2019 teen comedy Alice Junior.

We're also bringing back our daily virtual "Tea Time" on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. This was started last year for folks who are not necessarily night people but still want to participate in the festival. This year it's "Tea Time with the Duchess," hosted by Ava Davis, aka the Duchess of Grant Park. We'll have guests each day, including TRANSlations 2022 filmmakers; our former festival director, Sam Berliner; and special Sunday Tea Time guests, Ser Anzoategui, who played Eddy in the Starz series Vida, and filmmaker Lilly Wachowski.

Our final virtual event will be a free game night Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. where [people] can come be social, play a variety of fun games, and wind down after an exciting festival weekend.

SMF: Where does TRANSlations go from here? How does it continue to evolve?

SF: As I mentioned before, I'd love for TRANSlations to remain a hybrid festival. I'd love to see TRANSlations continue to support and grow emerging Trans and Nonbinary filmmakers so that more of us are at the helm telling our own stories. I'd love to see festivals working in tandem with filmmakers to budget for closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, and audio description for blind and low-vision viewers. This can allow for TRANSlations and many other film festivals to be more accessible to more people. That is the evolution I want to see happen.

SMF: Any last thoughts or advice for those looking forward to attending the festival in person, virtually, or both?

SF: Yes! Film festivals can get overwhelming, with so many films and events to attend. If you can, check out our festival guide in advance and decide which films and events you want to attend ahead of time. Our festival film guide for both in-person and virtual events can be found at https://threedollarbillcinema.org/translations-2022.

Also, for the safety of our guests, staff, and volunteers, masks and proof of vaccination will be required at our in-person screenings at Northwest Film Forum.