“No one was putting our stories on screen, and so it was a remedy to kind of change things,” says Shawna Virago, artistic director of the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, founded in 1997. “We are probably the world’s first transgender film festival. We are certainly the world’s longest-running transgender film festival.”
The 24th annual festival runs through this weekend and will mark the second year it is solely available virtually across the United States.
The collected films, says Virago, “are centered on transgender and gender non-conforming experiences, and are also created by gender-nonconforming and transgender filmmakers, so the content can sometimes be larger than issues of gender.”
The festival is comprised of seven programs, each consisting of various short films ranging from 2 to 30 minutes in length, and available for on-demand screening through Sunday, Nov. 14.
Virago says what gives her the most pride is to showcase works that might otherwise go unseen.
“We have a small but mighty screening committee,” she says. “I feel like we are continuing to make space for innovative, outside the lines, works on the margins. Other film festivals have kind of stopped portraying what I consider rough jewels, and I feel like a lot of times those tend to end up being the most important films.”
The festival is “pay what you can” with tickets starting “at zero dollars.” Virago says “it just seemed like the right thing to do. There are people in isolation throughout the country, and we wanted to make it really easy for them to watch movies and feel like they’re part of our community.
“We’re a politicized festival, and I do think we’re always trying to figure out ways to extend our reach and our responsibility to our communities.”
She’s understandably hesitant to pick a favorite among the films. “All of the programs are really great. We have a broad range of films that speak to people. ‘Program 1’ has animation and has some wonderful music videos. It has a film about the drag community, and it has this very fun movie called Coming Out, which is a stop motion animation featuring Godzilla — it’s very cute.
“But I would encourage people to just explore the programs,” she continues. “It’s kind of like for me when I was younger. I loved the independent record stores, just going in them and looking at all of the albums in the bins and finding all kinds of little gems.
“I think people can approach our festival that way — just by going through our programs, you’ll find a lot of really great films.”
The 24th Annual San Francisco Transgender Film Festival runs online through Sunday, Nov. 14. It is available only in the U.S. All films are “pay what you can” and closed-captioned. Visit www.sftff.org. Follow on Twitter at @SFTransFilmFest.
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