We love the Wachowskis, but they're not the whole story. It's time to recognize the vibrant community of transgender filmmakers on the rise.
When Lana and Lilly Wachowski, the visionary sibling directors of “The Matrix” and “Sense8, came out as transgender, it was a boon for trans filmmakers everywhere. Suddenly, the Wachowskis’ entire canon of influential science fiction, fantasy (and even “Bound,” their one explicitly queer film) could be seen through a whole different lens. The news turned “The Matrix” into a metaphor for eschewing the gender binary, “Bound” could comfortably be claimed as a lesbian film made by a lesbian, and they were free to make “Sense8” as unabashedly inclusive as they wanted.
So: How many trans directors can you name besides the Wachowskis?
While their influence cannot be overstated, there is a robust crew of transgender filmmakers coming up in their wake. As trans stories become de rigeur, it’s increasingly important that these stories are told by trans people. Only then will we see fewer cisgender actors playing trans, harmful stereotypes used as plot points, and documentaries that play like after school specials.
Trans people need to tell their own stories. So: If you’re not trans and you want to produce a movie about a trans person, consider hiring one of the directors listed below.
Seyi Adebanjo blends activism with filmmaking so passionately, they even teach at NYU about integrating artistic practice with social change. Raised in New York City and born in Nigeria, their 30-minute doc, “Oya! Something Happened on the Way to West Africa!” is a moving meditation on cultural, spiritual, and racial identities. Comparing attitudes and customs around gender fluidity from New York City to Nigeria, it is a personal film only Adebanjo could have made. Their shorter doc, “Trans Lives Matter!: Justice for Islan Nettles,” was about the murder of a black transgender woman in Harlem in 2013, and was screened by PBS Channel 13.