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10 Great Transgender Films, According To The BFI (But What Are Your Favorites?)

by Alice Lytton
March 14, 2014 4:48 PM
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"Women In Revolt"
"Women In Revolt"

The BFI continued whetting our appetites for their upcoming BFI Flare Film Festival (formerly the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival) today, publishing their list of 10 great Transgender films

Representation of trans folk has been making the news recently, particularly in the wake of debates about Jared Leto's casting in "Dallas Buyers Club". For all of the arguments thatcis gender people should be free to play trans gender parts ("it's just acting" certain people cry on repeat) this surely ignores issues about access to roles faced by trans gender actors. As Juliet Jacques has asked elsewhere, how often, for example, do we see transgender people cast in cisgender roles? With this being so, there's very good reason to think not even making a concerted effort to audition trans gender people for trans gender roles is just another way of excluding them from Hollywood. 

What's so weird about this, as Jacques points out, is that there is a rich history of trans people playing trans characters. As she says

"they could fill gaps in semi-improvised scripts with lived experience, and draw on deep emotional memories for pre-written scenes. Paradoxically, these performances didn't strive for "realism": they had no need, as their personal histories provided authenticity and dodged the reduction of "a transsexual" (in Stephenson's words) to a set of practices and conventions".

There are some excellent films on BFIFlare's list, all deserving of their place. But there is also an interesting disparity: Only 1 of the 10 films is predominantly about transgender men (I should mention, though, that I haven't seen "Paris is Burning" so am deducing this from what I've read about it. Correct me if there's a significant role for a trans man in that film.) 

So, we're not only asking you which are your top ten trans gender films, but we also want to know which are the great movies about trans men? Is "Boys Don't Cry" really alone?  Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Donovan Harmel | March 21, 2014 7:37 PMReply

    My favorite is the New Zealand produced film, Assume Nothing.

  • NJ | March 17, 2014 7:19 PMReply

    The Tenant by Polanski
    M.Butterfly by Cronenberg

  • Justin | March 14, 2014 10:01 PMReply

    RuPaul has played women on screen in a non-campy way on a few occasions. I realize he's a transvestite and not a transgender, however the point is while as a woman, RuPaul was playing a woman, not a drag queen.

    So, yeah it's rare, Ms. Jacques, but it happens.

  • Dorian Fuk | March 14, 2014 6:47 PMReply

    You haven't seen 'Paris is Burning'???!!!???

    Bye, Alice...

  • Alice | March 14, 2014 7:14 PM

    I know, I know. At least I came clean about my dirty little secret! I'm rectifying this stat...

  • Nic | March 14, 2014 6:29 PMReply

    "Ed Wood" by Tim Burton is a surprisingly progressive film, I believe, when it comes to trans issues. The character is a transvestite, so maybe it doesn't count, but the film was pretty good.

  • A.D. Calvo | March 14, 2014 5:38 PMReply

    XXY. From Argentina starring Ricardo Darin. About an intersexed teen. Great film. On a side note, I think that BFI listing films like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs in their article, without pointing out their insensitivity to the transgender community was a missed opportunity. I question those even being seriously considered transgender cinema.

  • Daniel Martins | March 14, 2014 5:32 PMReply

    - "Tomboy" (2011) by Céline Sciamma
    - "La mala educación" by Pedro Almodovar
    - "La ley del deseo" by Pedro Almodovar
    - "Madame Satã" by Karim Aïnoz
    - "XXY" by Lucía Puenzo
    - "Lawrence Anyways" by Xavier Dolan
    - "The adventurous of Priscila, Queen of the Desert" by Stephen Elliot
    - "El lugar sin límites" by Arturo Ripstein
    - "Pink Flamingos" by John Water
    - "Hedwig and the angry inch" by John Cameron Mitchell

  • mel p. | March 17, 2014 11:01 PM

    God, this site REALLY hates special characters. Intersex does not equal Trans. That's what I was trying to say.

  • mel p. | March 17, 2014 11:00 PM

    Intersex ≠ Trans. XXY is not a trans film.

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