Ahead of the Slamdance Film Festival, Do I Have Boobs Now? filmmakers Milena Salazar and Joella Cabalu spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the short film.
Thank you for joining Solzy at the Movies today. How are things treating you?
Milena Salazar: Hi Danielle, thanks for chatting with us! Things are going well. My co-director Joella Cabalu and I are very excited about our Slamdance screenings, as well as others coming up at Indiana Bloomington Pride and the ReelOut Film & Video Festival in Kingston, Ontario in the next few weeks.
Your short documentary, Do I Have Boobs Now?, is playing the Slamdance Film Festival this weekend. When did you first learn about Courtney Demone and what made you want to follow up on her story a year later?
MS: Through an introduction by a mutual friend, I approached Courtney back in 2015 when the campaign first launched and did a bit of filming that appears in the beginning of the short. Joella came on board in 2016 when we were looking for support to push the project forward, and together we decided to self-fund the production and with a grant from the National Film Board of Canada we were able to see it through completion. Although the original intent was to document the campaign as it unfolded, due to timing and resources we shifted our focus away from that, and instead into a reflection on how the campaign and being thrust on the global spotlight had impacted Courtney personally.
With a seven minute running time, Do I Have Boobs Now? feels like an expanded news story. Would a longer running time have been possible?
Joella Cabalu: From the beginning, we intended the piece to be a short portrait to spark further conversation rather an investigation into social media censorship policies. We figured that if someone wanted a play-by-play of what happened to her campaign that they could easily find it on Google, so we wanted to balance those facts with the interiority of Courtney, her feelings and revelations on body image and street harassment, things that you wouldn’t typically hear in a news piece and only comes after a year of reflection.
The doc has played at a few festivals so far. What has been the reaction?
JC: We premiered at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival in August and won the OUTtvGO People’s Choice Award for Best Short! It has stirred conversation amongst transgender and cisgender people on a number of issues. I recall a non-binary trans person approaching me saying that they felt their struggles were reflected, and in another screening a group of cisgender women deeply related to the sequence about street harassment. In addition to the festival circuit, we recently partnered with the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and Out in Schools for educational distribution.
Have you had any negative response with regards to being a cisgender filmmaker and telling the story of a transgender person at a time when trans people don’t really have the same opportunity to get behind the camera?
MS: It’s a conversation that we’ve had together as co-directors and that we’ve also had with Courtney. As cis women, we can’t fully understand Courtney’s experience but we were drawn to this story because it spoke about issues we could relate to, like the sexualization and sexism that feminine-presenting people experience — and it’s important to note here that trans women face gender-based violence at extraordinary levels. As documentary filmmakers, we are humbled that Courtney trusted us with her story and we recognize it is crucial that our industry creates opportunities and lifts up the voices of diverse filmmakers so that communities can tell their own stories.
JC: It’s a fair question and as a woman of colour I understand the importance of representation in front and behind the camera. One thing that Courtney mentioned in her original piece in Mashable that launched the campaign, was that all bodies should be free from sexualization, shame and oppressive censorship (whether you are transgender, person of colour, bigger-bodied, have a mastectomy, scarring or a disability, for example). I think that’s why we’re so thrilled that the film will screen at Slamdance so that it can reach and engage a wider international audience!
An official selection of the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival, Do I Have Boobs Now? will have a few screenings during the weekend.