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7 great, genre-spanning films from trans directors to watch in honor of Trans Day Of Visibility

Image Credits: ‘Mutt,’ Strand Releasing (left); ‘Bound,’ Gramercy Pictures (right)

Every year, March 31 marks the International Transgender Day Of Visibility, a time to recognize the contributions trans people have made to the LGBTQ+ community and society at large.

In media, we’ve been heartened by the increased visibility for trans stories on film and television, but we also want to take the time to honor the artists who you don’t see—at least not on the screen.

So, this year, inspired by The Sundance Institute’s Trans Possibilities Initiative, we’ve put together a list of seven fantastic movies from eight talented trans directors (all of which are readily available to stream right now) highlighting some of the most exciting artists working today.

From a hilarious comedy to an erotic thriller to an eye-opening documentary, these features underscore that trans stories aren’t limited by genre or scope—they can look like anything.

The family drama: A Kid Called Jake (dir. Silas Howard)

Since writing, directing, and starring in the trailblazing feature By Hook or By Crook, Silas Howard has had an incredibly prolific career in film and television, working on everything from Pose to last year’s charming supernatural teen comedy, Darby And The Dead. But, prior to that, Howard delivered this emotional, thought-provoking story of young parents carefully navigating the best way to raise their child, Jake, who has begun to express their gender non-conformity. Jim Parsons and Claire Danes deliver sensitive performances as Jake’s mom and dad, with notable supporting turns from beloved stars like Octavia Spencer and Ann Dowd. In the wake of “Don’t Say Gay,” Howard’s touching drama feels even more urgent.

Streaming via AMC+, Kanopy, and Tubi. Available for digital rental on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV.

The comedy: Afternoon Delight (dir. Joey Soloway)

Before Transparent began its four-season run—going on to make history for trans storytellers, win a bunch of awards, and stir up a few controversies—series creator Joey Soloway made their feature directorial debut with this hilarious but bittersweet indie comedy. Their regular collaborator Kathryn Hahn stars as Rachel, a wealthy, disaffected stay-at-home mom who tries to add a little spark to married life with a trip to the strip club. There she meets a young sex worker named McKenna (Ted Lasso‘s Juno Temple) who, after a series of events, Rachel invites to stay with her family in an attempt to “rescue” her. Sharp as ever, Soloway’s film skewers privilege and brings a fresh, sex-positive perspective to the midlife crisis narrative.

Streaming via AMC+, Amazon Prime Video, Fandor, Peacock, Roku Channel, and Tubi. Available for digital rental on AppleTV and YouTube TV.

The erotic thriller: Bound (dirs. Lana and Lily Wachowski)

You know them, you love them—they changed the face of the modern blockbuster forever with the futuristic phenomenon that is The Matrix. But, before they plugged into the simulation, the Wachowskis cut their teeth on Bound, a wicked and wonderful queer erotic thriller that put them on the map. Stuck in a relationship with a dangerous mafioso, Violet (the iconic Jennifer Tilly) finds herself drawn to an alluring ex-con named Corky (Gina Gershon). After they begin a very steamy secret affair, the two women hatch a plan to steal millions from the mafia and run away together. Wryly funny, occasionally violent, and so very sapphic, Bound played with throwback conventions of the noir genre to make a thrilling film ahead of its time.

Streaming via Paramount+ and Pluto TV. Available for digital rental on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, and YouTube TV.

The coming-of-age story: Deirdra & Laney Rob A Train (dir. Sydney Freeland)

Another director with an impressive list of TV credits (including Grey’s Anatomy, P-Valley, and Reservation Dogs), Sydney Freeland is a filmmaker who has proven she can do it all. Her feature debut, Drunktown’s Finest, is worth a watch, telling three modern-day stories drawn from her Navajo heritage, but we also have to recommend the coming-of-age tale Dierdra & Laney Rob A Train, which impressively blends laughs, thrills, and heart. After their mother ends up in jail, two teens sisters (played by Riverdale‘s Ashleigh Murray and former The X Factor contestant Rachel Crow) decide to—spoiler alert?—rob a train. The underseen romp is a lot of fun, with Freeland drawing on conventions of old Westerns and flipping them on their heads.

Streaming exclusively on Netflix.

The documentary: Strong Island (dir. Yance Ford)

In his stunning first feature, filmmaker Yance Ford excavates his family’s heartbreaking history to create a vital, raw portrait of racial injustice in America. Back in 1994, Ford’s brother, William—a 24-year old Black teacher in New York—was shot and killed by a White teen mechanic. After the assailant claimed self-defense in court, an all-white jury decided not to indict him. Part memoir, part true-crime investigation, Strong Island delves into the racial bias that shaped that decision, examines its impact on Ford’s family, and reclaims William’s name. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars in 2018, making Ford the first trans director to be nominated for an Academy Award, and the first trans man to be nominated in any category.

Streaming exclusively on Netflix.

The indie horror: We’re All Going To The World’s Fair (dir. Jane Scoenbrun)

Perhaps no film has better captured the limitless possibilities—and, consequently, potential for dark, unimaginable horrors—of the internet better than Jane Schoebrun’s intimate, personal, and utterly bone-chilling We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. Told predominantly through “screenlife” web camera recordings, we watch lonely teen Casey’s (Anna Cobb) slow-creep obsession with an online role-playing horror game, as she explores her identity and even sparks unexpected connections, all while maybe, possibly losing grip of reality. Schoebrun’s darkly euphoric follow-up I Saw The TV Glow is due to make a splash in theaters this spring, so there’s no better time to catch up on their feature debut, the announcement of a major emerging talent.

Streaming via Max and Hoopla. Available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon Prime Video and AppleTV.

The aching romance: Mutt (dir. Vuk Lungulov-Klotz)

Set over the course of one eventful day in New York City, Mutt follows trans-masc twenty-something Feña (Lío Mehiel) as he prepares for his father’s visit from Chile, meanwhile unexpectedly encountering his ex-boyfriend John (Cole Doman) and younger sister Zoe (MiMi Ryder)—none of whom have seen him since his transition. Writer-director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz treats each of these relationships with dramatic heft, effectively dividing the movie into thirds, but it’s Feña’s rekindled connection with John the sets the screen ablaze. Theirs is a unique dynamic, seldom depicted on screen, and though their reunion is initially uneasy, Mehiel and Doman have an undeniable chemistry, culminating in quite possibly the sexiest scene to ever take place in a laundromat.

Streaming on Netflix.

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