The Transforming Cinema festival takes place this weekend – 19 and 20 November at Curzon Cinema, Showroom Cinema, ODEON Cinema, Sheffield Town Hall and Sheffield Hallam University. Find out more at transformingcinema.co.uk.
What was the original idea behind the Transforming Cinema festival?
It was born from a project we did in 2014 called E.D.E.N. Action! which aimed to increase the employability skills of unemployed LGBT people in Sheffield and the surrounding areas. We ran workshops and training events for participants creating 3 five-minute shorts; one of the films focussed on transgender representation and through observing it being made, we came to the realisation that five minutes just wasn’t enough time to cover such an important subject. We also didn’t have the resources to do it justice, so we decided to give the film focussed on trans issues its own platform with a bigger budget.
Off the back of that, we ran another project; Trashing Transphobia. It was a feature length film that we shot last year, focussing on the mainstream understanding of trans issues. This went down a storm; we sold out at our Odeon screening!
What aims are you trying to achieve with your own film making projects and the festival in general?
Hosting the film festival means that filmmakers have a platform to come together and share their work. It’s a celebration of that work and of a recognition of their importance in society. Through creating this event, we want to inspire the filmmakers to take pride in their work and their role within society.
We also wanted to give trans cinema a platform within the local community. Sheffield has always prided itself on being an all-inclusive city. The festival is important as it underlines the importance of trans representation and the welcoming nature of the city. We are bringing different groups of people together and celebrating our differences – which is what we believe Sheffield is all about.
Who is featured in the festival?
As well as our own four films from our project EDEN Shorts, we have a hugely diverse range of films and speakers participating. We have films from around the world being screened at the festival and we pride our event on representing the trans community on an international scale, not just locally.
As well as garnering a lot of local attention, we have attracted people from across the globe, which we are extremely pleased about. We have the cast and crew from one of the films coming over from France to the screening of their film ‘In The Mirror’, which is fantastic.
Why do you feel that it is important to focus on trans people and stories specifically?
We feel that it is extremely important because the trans community is too often underrepresented or misrepresented in mainstream cinema by film makers/organisations that have had a limited experience of the issues trans people face. Not only are the people we work with exceptional filmmakers, they have the experience and knowledge to authentically translate stories and issues faced by the trans community. We wanted to give members of the transgender community the platform to convey stories personal to them.
In regard to the films made through the EDEN Shorts project that will be shown at the festival, do you feel that the filmmakers have been given a louder voice within the local community than before?
I can’t speak for the individuals themselves, but from watching the behind-the-scenes film that was shot throughout the project, you can definitely see how the participants grew in confidence, both in themselves and in their skills. For many, it was really valuable as they developed a challenging skill whilst getting to bounce ideas off other filmmakers with similar visions. Taking part in the project and working within a team with other members of the LGBT+ community I think really allowed participants to explore their film concepts.
Is there a sense of community within the project teams?
Meeting and working within a team of people who have had similar experiences has been really useful for the participants as it’s allowed them to develop their film ideas. Their hard work, collaboration and teamwork is evident in their films, and the festival should hopefully help them share this with the wider community. There is a definite a sense of community within the team, which is reflected through the behind-the-scenes interviews and films.
In what ways would you say film provides a platform for members of the trans community and other underrepresented groups in general?
Film and television, as well as online platforms like YouTube, are powerful tools. Because of this, film – whether that be online or on the cinema screen – allows you to disseminate your ideas quickly in an enticing way. Cinema and film have always had the ability to transform people’s’ perceptions of the world, which is one of the reasons festivals like this are so important.
Through creating film, you are applying your filmmaking knowledge to entice viewers and encourage them to see things from a particular perspective. For underrepresented communities, films can be an effective way for relaying stories to viewers who may have only experienced the mainstream cinematic depiction of their community.
Would you say that film connects people from different walks of life and backgrounds?
Definitely. As films are extremely evocative in a variety of ways, creating a narrative allows people to get across a message to viewers which they have struggled to put into words.
Cinema is an all-round experience, which is why it is such a powerful tool for people that are trying to give an insight into their lives. It is an extremely personal thing to make a film and put your own ideas and experiences into it. However, watching a film is a universally collective experience; it’s a useful way to convey a message that is can be challenging to share face-to-face.
In my opinion, this is why cinema provides such a significant platform for people who want to demystify misconceptions, particularly for members of the trans community.
What are your hopes for the future of trans cinema?
I want the term cinema to encompass trans cinema and LGBT cinema. Mainstream cinema that depicts the trans people and narratives are too often made with little input from those that understand the issues faced by the trans community. Because of this, the narrative in mainstream cinema often misrepresents the community and runs the risk of perpetuating societal misconceptions about it.
I really hope that Transforming Cinema will encourage more members of the transgender and gender non-conforming community to get involved in creating films with a focus on trans people and stories. Being able to have accurate representation within the mainstream discourse is the ideal.
Cinema has the ability to change perceptions, which is why there should be more of an influence of trans filmmakers over mainstream depictions of trans people in cinema.