Film still depicting three youth shouting up into the sky.

2023 TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival Is About Creating Kinship Through Time 

Seattle’s 18th Trans Film Fest Is Coming to Columbia City

by Neve Mazique-Bianco

The 2023 TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival, produced by Three Dollar Bill Cinema, turns 18 this year! To celebrate the fest’s young adulthood, the producers, programmers, jury, and artists have cooked up a wondrous weekend of in-person and online screenings, events, and parties, including two brand-new elements — a new location and a new award! One, TRANSlations is coming to Columbia City! In-person screenings and events will take place at Ark Lodge Cinemas and Beacon Cinema on May 5 and 6, with an after-screening opening night party on May 5 at The Royal Room. Two, earlier that evening, Three Dollar Bill Cinema will present the inaugural TRANSlations Trailblazer Award to filmmaker, actor, and director, Isabel Sandoval.

When I asked Billy Ray Brewton, managing director of Three Dollar Bill Cinema, about the significance of having the festival in Columbia City, he said, “Capitol Hill, as incredible as it is, is overwhelming with film festivals, specifically queer-oriented ones. Columbia City is not. Why not take the festival to an area of Seattle that is underserved in those areas? That was our initial idea. Plus, it allows us to work with new venues and restaurants and develop new strategic relationships.”

Film still depicting a femme-presenting individual standing beside an elderly woman in a pink nightgown in a bathroom.
In “Lingua Franca,” directed by Isabel Sandoval, an undocumented caregiver navigates relationships and survival. (Photo courtesy of TRANSlations Film Festival.)

Something that is exciting to me about having TRANSlations, 1 of just 3 trans-focused film festivals in the country — 1 of 9 in the world — in South Seattle, is that more Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color like myself who are trans, queer, nonbinary, or just interested in our stories, will have access to screenings, conversations, and connections. There are a lot of queer and trans folks and families in South Seattle! 

Isabel Sandoval, the recipient of the TRANSlations Trailblazer Award, is “one of the most fearless and impactful filmmakers of her time,” according to the TRANSlations website. “From her feature films Senorita and Lingua Franca, to her directorial work on series like Under the Banner of Heaven and Tell Me Lies, Sandoval has blazed a path for herself both inside and outside of the studio system. In doing so, she has brought visibility, inspiration, and incredible filmmaking to our world.” 

TRANSlations lead programmer Anto Astudillo highlighted that in addition to being an inspiring director, Sandoval is also a truly great mentor, and has done a lot of work examining past films of significance to the trans community. You can catch screenings of Lingua Franca and the short film “Shangri-La” and experience Sandoval talking about the films on May 6, starting at 6 p.m. 

In my conversations with Astudillo; Narrative Shorts jury members Antü (Antonio Catrileo Araya) and Manu (Manuel Carrión Lira); and Features jury member, filmmaker, actor, and musician Daniel Sea, a theme began to emerge — the theme inside the theme of 2023 TRANSlations, Trans Through Time. Astudillo says, “I am a firm believer in creating culture.” Then, like an answer, though these conversations were days apart, separated by supposed walls of time and screens of Zoom, Manu says, “This is how we build kinship!” 

At the time, Antü, Manu, and I were actually laughing about name-dropping, and how I had experienced that every queer and trans person I interviewed for this article had a lot of credit they wanted to send elsewhere for how they got where they are. It was beautiful: Building kinship, connecting now, looking back at where we came from, turning our attention on where we have to go, together — these are queer, decolonial values. 

Antü, along with other trans/nonbinary Mapuche epupillan (Two Spirit) beings Manu, Constanza Catrileo Araya, Malku Catrileo Araya, and Alejandra Carrión Lira, make up the collective Comunidad Catrileo+Carrión

In addition to being filmmakers, organizers, and multimedia artists, Comunidad Catrileo+Carrión are weavers. Antü says that they weave together both the “visible and the invisible,” engaging both traditional Mapuche weaving and contemporary Mapuche epupillan practices. I believe that 2023 TRANSlations is weaving together both the visible and the invisible as well. 

“What we see is all the anti-trans hate [and ensuing anti-trans legislation]. What we don’t see is the stress and anxiety and pain of these actions. A film festival can really help,” Astudillo says. “We have a say in the world we build for ourselves.” As of this writing, there have been 532 anti-trans bills introduced in 49 states in this year alone; 51 have passed, 96 have failed, and 385 are active. This shouldn’t stop our critical interventions. In fact, it’s entirely because trans and queer people all over the globe have been coming together and creating art and experiences for one another for centuries that we pose a threat to the world social order as we know it. Whether it’s Oglala Lakota/German/British artist Hexe Fey bringing Catrileo+Carrión Community to Seattle, forever connecting them in kinship, or Daniel Sea and Anto Astudillo meeting at the party Body Hack in New York — when we gather, in person or online, we build ourselves stronger, our understandings deepen, and a system that seeks to eradicate us is interrupted. 

Affirming the life-saving quality of the film community, Astudillo said, “Queer cinema saved my life.” 

Sea, the first person to portray a recurring transmasculine character on the Showtime series The L Word, told me about their experience watching Kokomo City, one of the features that will be shown during TRANSlations. Sea — along with Frances Arpaia and Dana Washington-Queen — is on the Features jury. Directed by D. Smith, Kokomo City is a documentary exploring the lives of four Black transwomen. One of the women, Rasheeda Williams, who performed as Koko Da Doll, was a voice of brilliance to Sea. The night after watching the film, Sea went to sleep thinking about the wonderful way she put things and thought that maybe through the magic of the trans artist community, he would one day be lucky enough to meet her. When Sea woke up, he learned that Rasheeda had been killed.

Black-and-white film still depicting an individual wearing a headscarf and smoking in the background with a large teddy bear in the foreground.
“Kokomo City” shares the stories of four Black transgender sex workers in New York and Georgia. Directed by D. Smith, “Kokomo City” features Koko Da Doll, who was tragically killed last month. (Photo courtesy of TRANSlations Film Festival.)

D. Smith wrote on Instagram, “Rasheeda was the latest victim of violence against Black transgender women. I created Kokomo City because I wanted to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women. I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of transgender lives.” 

Rest in power, Rasheeda, I know that you, your castmates, and Kokomo City will save some of our lives, and this is a kind of kinship too. 

At a time of so much reactionary violence and silencing, it can be difficult to reconcile making ourselves visible with keeping ourselves safe. But in such a big world, it is through visibility that we can connect and advocate for one another and ourselves; it is through these windows opening up that we are able to reckon with the true history and strength of our resistance, and the timeless blooms of our resilience. 

So gather! In-person or online. Make films. Watch films. Have fun. Have feelings. 

Be you. 

The 2023 TRANSlations: Seattle Trans Film Festival is happening online and in person at Ark Lodge Cinemas and Beacon Cinema May 4–7 at a variety of times, including the screening of Kokomo City on May 5 at 9 p.m. at Ark Lodge Cinemas, a community panel with special guest Daniel Sea called “Resistance/Resilience” on May 6 at 12:45 p.m. at Ark Lodge Cinemas, and daily teatime cinematic gossip with the Duchess of Grant Park, Ava Davis, every day of the festival online at 11 a.m. Ava will also be interviewing Anto Astudillo and all jury members. You won’t want to miss any of it!

NEVE (they/(s)he) is a multigender, multiracial, multiply Disabled, multidimensional, multidisciplinary terpsichorean artist of the stage, street, field, stream, and screen. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish and Coast Salish lands and traveling wherever they have access and an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. Visit them online at and beyond.

📸 Featured Image: A scene from the movie “SOFT,” directed by Joseph Amenta. “SOFT” is a coming-of-age story about three queer friends who vow to make their summer the best ever, but certain events thwart their plans. (Photo courtesy of TRANSlations Film Festival.)

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