Frameline 2018: The Transtastic Shorts

Happy Birthday, Marsha! Courtesy of Frameline

The Transtastic shorts program screened during Frameline on June 18, 2018, with a focus on people who are transgender and gender-nonconforming.

A few prominent transgender people were front and center during the program, including actress Trace Lysette and Transparent producer Zachary Drucker.

Happy Birthday, Marsha!: Written and directed by Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel, the narrative-documentary hybrid stars Tangerine’s Mya Taylor in the role of Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson.  The bulk of the short takes place just before the 1969 riot at The Stonewall Inn.  Taylor delivers an exceptionally strong performance as the late activist.  Archival footage of Johnson is smartly blended in with the narrative aspect.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the documentary because of the other documentary that premiered on Netflix last year.  Out of respect to these two filmmakers, I’ve refused to watch the other one.

If you look closely, that’s Silas Howard playing the Stonewall manager.

Last Night’s Sugar:  To put it in simple terms, this isn’t so much a short film in as much as it is a music video.  Directed by Shawna Virago, the song is the second single off of her 2016 album, Heaven Sent Delinquent.

Evan Jonigkeit in Fabled.
Evan Jonigkeit in Fabled.

Fabled:  Directed by Jennifer Morrison, the second episode of the anthology series, “D as in Delta,” made its debut during Frameline.  This episode follows “Anodyne,” which premiered during Tribeca in April.  Created by Evan Jonigkeit and Girls alumnus Zosia Mamet, the anthology series aims to change up what we know about traditional fairy tales.  In this episode, Jonigkeit stars alongside actress Trace Lysette as Dan and Rose, respectively.

This episode represents the story of Rhodopis, the earliest known Cinderella story.  Dan lives and works in a small town.  Later, he runs into Rose at a bar but she quickly disappears before he picks her up as a hitchhiker.  Rose tells him that when he’s ready, he’ll know how to find her.  There’s a pair of red heels that are so prevalent in the short that you almost know that deep down, Dan is really Rose.

The transgender theme runs so strongly in this episode of Fabled.  In under 14 minutes, the script tells the story in a way that every transgender person can relate to.

Dropping Penny: Jed Bell directs an 8-minute comedy that follows two trans dog walkers in San Francisco.  The short stars D’Lo as dog walker Sunny, Nick Witherow as Sunny’s assistant Nick, and Cheryl Dunye as Alpha Donna.

Self-Made Men: The “Showbiz” episode of the series screened during the fest.  Headlined by rapper Rocco Katastrophe and photographer Amos Mac, this episode explores the Mr. Trans Man competition.

Zachary Drucker and Penny Sori in Southern for Pussy.
Zachary Drucker and Penny Sori in Southern for Pussy. Courtesy of Frameline.

Southern for Pussy: Real-life mother and daughter, Penny Sori and Zachary Drucker, write and star in this five minute short.  Even though Drucker is transgender, the word isn’t spoken once.  The two just have a casual conversation that discusses matters such as online dating, sex, aging, and anatomy.  It’s great to see a film for once in which one of the leading talents is transgender but when push comes to shove, it’s not a driving topic of the film.

Take note, cisgender filmmakers who want to tell transgender stories.  Drucker directs, stars and co-wrote a film in which her being trans shouldn’t be something that matters in the long-term of how the short plays out.

We Forgot to Break Up
We Forgot to Break Up

We Forgot to Break Up: Chandler Levack directed the short film, which held its world premiere during TIFF and US premiere during SXSW.  The film would later win an Audience Award during the Chicago Critics Film Festival in May.  Newcomer Jesse Todd stars as Evan Strocker, a former band manager who decides to surprise the band backstage before a show.  Imagine reuniting with friends who may or may not have known that you’ve come out as transgender since the last time they saw you.  It’s awkward for some of the band members while it’s business as usual for others.

There is a lot of emotion on display and Todd really breaks through in his performance, even for a short film.  In a world in which there are more transgender women than men in Hollywood, one can only hope to see more work from Todd in the future to come.

For a film that runs under 20 minutes, there’s a lot of punch packed in.  Yeah, there could surely be a longer story but for now, we can be satisfied with the finished product.

Episodes 1-2 of The T screened during Frameline but I’ll have a review of the series after watching it in full.

The 2018 San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival ran June 14-24, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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