Transnation Film Fest :: Embracing the 'T'

by Chris Carpenter

Rage Monthly

Saturday October 7, 2017

One could argue that the last thing Los Angeles needs is another film festival. However, last year's inaugural TransNation Film Festival succeeded as a more in-depth exploration of our trans community than most LGBTQ events have offered to date.

Presented by St. John's Well Child and Family Center, a community health center in L.A. that serves one of the largest populations of transgender patients in the country, the festival's mission is to "Honor our history and nurture emerging voices while celebrating and showcasing trans culture's cinematic achievements and social impact throughout the world."

Hosted by Zackary Drucker (filmmaker, artist and producer of "Transparent"), the TransNation Film Festival is a three-day event featuring a unique program of works by emerging and established filmmakers, as well as rare and underseen repertory gems and classics that reflect the trans experience.

"I can't imagine a more dynamic, challenging and crucial time for us to build community around art and storytelling," said Drucker. "We programmed this year's festival to highlight filmmakers and subjects that keep us critical, galvanized and empowered. Moving through time and around the world, we're featuring vintage and cult films alongside subversive and groundbreaking narratives of today."

Saturday, October 14 highlights include A Special Tribute to The Cockettes, the legendary San Francisco theatrical troupe featuring photographs, an art exhibition featuring original Cockettes' costumes and screenings of three rare Cockettes-made films: "Tricia's Wedding," "Elevator Girls in Bondage" and "Palace." The screening of "Palace" will be accompanied by a live score by Kristian Hoffman, with photographer and founding Cockette Fayette Hauser also in attendance. "The Starbooty Trilogy," a cult classic from RuPaul's early public access days, will also screen, including a midnight dress-up party and pre-party red carpet.

Two new and acclaimed social justice documentaries that explore issues at the core of the mission of St. John's Well Child and Family Center include: "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson," directed by Academy Award-nominated David France ("How to Survive a Plague"), opening the festival on Friday, October 13. One of the film's subjects, trans activist Victoria Cruz, will be present in conversation with St. John's CEO Jim Mangia, who knew Marsha P. Johnson.

Also screening is "Strong Island," the Sundance 2017 Special Jury Award-winner for storytelling, with Yance Ford, the film's director and subject in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

Screening also that day, will be the West Coast premiere of "Trans Youth," a nuanced verité documentary following the lives of trans millennials in Austin, Texas, as well as a sneak peek of the forthcoming HBO documentary short film "15: A Quinceañera Story." The short will air in 2018 and follows transgender teen Zoe Luna as she prepares for her quinceañera in Los Angeles. Luna and filmmaker Matthew O'Neill will be in attendance.

Not to be missed is the rare big-screen presentation of 1970s "Myra Breckinridge," screening Saturday, October 14 at midnight. The first depiction of a trans character financed by a major Hollywood studio (20th Century Fox), this gender-bending comedy, written by Gore Vidal, is equally loved and loathed. Its eclectic cast includes Raquel Welch, John Huston, film critic Rex Reed, the great Mae West, and pre-stardom Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck.

The Film Festival is but one element of the TransNation Festival 2017, the week-long celebration of the trans community also includes Eleganza, the official closing gala, held the night of Saturday, October 21 at the Cicada Club in downtown Los Angeles. Eleganza will honor trailblazers in the trans community including, Marsha P. Johnson, as well as Trailblazer recipient Jazzmun Crayton, actor and advocate for the trans community for more than 30 years. Performers include emcees Candis Cayne and Laith Ashley, DJ JD Samson, along with Peppermint, Shea Diamond and Gia Banks.

The TransNation Film Festival runs Friday, October 13 through Sunday, October 15 at the Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood. Eleganza takes place on Saturday, October 21 at the Cicada Club inside the historic Oviatt Building, 617 S. Olive Street in Los Angeles. Proceeds from the 2017's TransNation Festival benefit the St. John's Well Child and Family Center's Transgender Health Program.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to

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