The question of representation and decent media portrayals is often present at every conversation about stereotypes. If a variety of types of characters modeled in the fake world of film existed, maybe audiences would be more sensible when navigating the actually diversity present in the real world. Perhaps that’s a long shot, but it’s one that is well worth a try.
Fortunately, we no longer have to wait for “mainstream” media to account for the presence of diversity. Filmmakers, actresses and writers in marginalized communities are taking back the limited narratives often presented in mainstream media. There there are many voices to been seen an heard, we have to also be conscious of the diversity within our own culture. Here is a collection of must see films that feature trans women and men of color all of which are poignant and careful with playing into stereotypes or victimhood, and represent a vast array of styles and perspectives.
A comedy-drama with a casting twist, filmed completely with iPhones, and insanely hilarious, Tangerine is a tragically comedic goldmine. We start with Sin-Dee-Rella, a trans woman sex worker, after serving a 28-day prison sentence. When she finds out her boyfriend has been cheating, Sin-Dee is out for blood as she tears up Hollywood searching for her unfaithful man and the “fish” he’s been with. Stylistically, Tangerine moves vibrantly within the seedy urban backdrop, as Sin-Dee and her best friend navigate through their respective days, they are met with moments that illustrate a vivid portrait of the LA sex-trade landscape. From picking up “trade”, performing and getting high, Tangerine is a tastefully interwoven film speckled with serious moments to light hearted reads. This film is reminiscent of comedy classic, B.A.P.S.. Smartly written and fun, Tangerine is available on iTunes.
Gun Hill Road
A standout Sundance favorite, Gun Hill Road is the story of a family coming to terms with change. A father, just released from a three year prison term, discovers his son is transgender. He struggles with his ideals of masculinity, while his son, played expertly by transgender actress, Harmony Santana, negotiates romantic interests. Bonds of family and old traditional values are tested in this poignant coming-of-age story.
This incredibly heartbreaking documentary, tells the story of the murder of Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a trans woman of color and loved member of her community. The films gripping interviews joined with the stark scenery of Detroit paints a picture of tragedy, racism, transphobia and classism. Available in select markets.
Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson
Pay It No Mind focuses on trans-activist, drag performer and artist; Marsha P. Johnson. A major instigator in the Stonewall Riots as well as a gay, trans and sex worker advocate, this documentary pays homage to Marsha’s dedication to equality and activism. Available on YouTube.
Following a racially and transphobic charged attack, Cece McDonald is sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison when, in an act of self-defense, one of her attackers is killed. Produced by “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox, who draws inspiration from Cece’s story for her character Sophia, Free Cece exposes the culture of misogyny, trans-phobia and violence against trans women of color. To be released 2016.
Gender fluid and male-drag performers take center stage in this artsy documentary. From New York to London, individuals across the spectrum share stories as, they explore gender identity and their female masculinity. Available on Netflix.
Out in the Night
Visiting New York’s West Village, seven friends are harassed as they walk down the street. The man, upon realizing the women are gay, proceeds to physically attack them as the women defend themselves. In the fight, one of the women stabs the man and although his injuries aren’t life threatening, the women are arrested, jailed and tried for attempted manslaughter. The media coverage and biased court case that followed, revealed the stifling class, race and sexual orientation prejudices that linger in American court rooms and news outlets. Out in the Night, through interviews, news clips and testimonies details the confluence of injustices against the seven protagonists.