Friday, 12 August 2011

Five Stars! Gun Hill Road

Finally! ... At long last, I got a chance to see this on the second night of the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. And, yes, it was awesome! Gun Hill Road hit home in so many ways, but in particular, as I prepare to come out to my own family, with the dynamics between the father and his pre-transition daughter. One scene in particular, and I don't want to give anything away here, had me in tears. This film definitely deserves any and all awards it gets as do the stellar cast. And as it was transgender actress Harmony Santana's breakout role (as a character with my namesake), I'm looking forward to more in the future from her.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Roll 'Em!

Mid-to-late summer means one thing to me ... It's film season! Although there are film festivals all year round in Vancouver, between now and the end of September are the ones I look forward to every year: the Queer Film Festival, the Pacific Cinematheque's Film Noir Festival and, at the end of September, the Vancouver International Film Festival. Popcorn and licorice candy abounds!!!

Of all the awesome offerings at the Queer Film Festival (August 11-21) this years, there are a number of transgender and intersex related films and documentaries. So far, I have tix for Gun Hill Road (I'm so excited ... four more sleeps!!!) this Friday and Trans-Generational and Orchids: My Intersex Adventure on Wednesday, August 17. I will post after I have seen each of them, although I sense that these will all be fantastic!

Also, I have always loved the dark, foreboding, existential atmosphere of classic film noir films of the 1940s and 1950s: they say so much about a post-war world where people have lost their moral compass, feel trapped by fate itself and are subject to apathy, angst and a desperation for truth. These films have a lot to show us n'est pas. And such stark, dramatic cinematography influenced by the German expressionist film makers. And the dialogue ... blunt assessments, poignant philosophical credos, innuendo laden one-liners. Anyway, I think I have made my case.

The Film Noir Festival runs, with the exception of a few days in between, from August 4 to August 24 this year (a little earlier than usual). Although the big catch at this festival this year, is the never-been released on DVD Whistler series of B-movie noirs from Columbia Pictures in the 1940s starring Richard Dix. I may get to see at least one of these, but so far I'm down for The Phantom Lady (1944). Again, I will post after I have seen any of these.


Friday, 5 August 2011

This Day in History: August 5 - 6, 1966, The Compton's Cafeteria Riot

Today, and tomorrow, mark the 45th anniversary of one of the key pre-Stonewall events in TLBG history. It had happened in the low income San Francisco district known as the Tenderloin. The neighbourhood's outlet of the Compton's cafeteria chain, at 101 Taylor Street, was the scene of a revolt of mostly transgender teenagers, along with street youth and a few residents of the burgeoning hippie neighbourhood in the nearby Haight-Ashbury district, against the discriminatory policies of, and treatment by, the cafeteria's management and staff.

On the night of August 5, the restaurant was packed. Management felt the mostly young crowd was rowdy and called the police. When they arrived and began to rough up some of the customers, a trans girl threw coffee at one of the officers and in the ensuing melee, the main window was smashed as were those of a police car outside and a newsstand was burned down.

The following night, members of the Vanguard, the first TLBG youth group in United States history, picketed Compton's along with others, including a lesbian organization called the Street Orphans. Once again, the police arrived, and once again the participants asserted themselves: they revolted. Public reaction to the police force's treatment of the demonstrated was negative. It was the beginning of the transgender community's assertion of itself politically (the same had happened at Dewey's Restaurant in Philadelphia the previous year) and also the beginning of a general public awareness of the experiences of transgender people. It has been a long, hard struggle on all fronts since, and there is much further to go.

Today a plaque commemorates both the site of the cafeteria and the 1966 riot. In 2005, Transgender activist and historian Susan Stryker produced a public television documentary on the revolt called Screaming Queens: The Riots at Compton's Cafeteria (I own a copy on DVD). The video later won an Emmy award for best TV documentary.