Miss Major – Still Fucking Here

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Major!

MAJOR! is a documentary film exploring the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a formerly incarcerated Black transgender elder and activist who has been fighting for the rights of trans women of color for over 40 years.”

The above description and few additional details from Miss Major’s Wikipedia Bio were all I knew about Major Griffin-Gracy a few weeks ago when I accepted an invitation to attend film’s premiere at the 2015 Transgender Film Festival in San Francisco.

It’s not that I didn’t know the statistics.

I did.

From the advocacy of Janet Mock, I learned about the increased risk of violence faced by transwomen of color and through the incarceration of CeCe McDonald, I learned about their disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system. I’ve seen the graphs and charts, but Major! explores these issues through story; tracing the harrowing yet exuberant life of an irreverent, irrepressible and utterly disarming woman who has built family and community for transgender women in and out of prison.

 

TGI Justice

Miss Major’s TGI Justice Project works to create “a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom… working in collaboration with others to forge a culture of resistance and resilience to strengthen us for the fight against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures.”

The staff and volunteers at TGI Justice visit prisoners, write letters, do research and advocate for their sisters behind bars. It is a noble work. It matters.

What I experienced watching this film is akin to the religious conviction of a lapsed evangelical during a barn-burning sermon. I was deeply affected and ultimately shamed by how little I have done for others. in my life. As I witnessed Major’s struggles and losses, I became acutely aware that for too long, I have excused my inaction by wrapping myself up in grief.

I am too sad, too anxious, too broken to do the work that must be done is an easy out, but for how long? At what point do the injustices of this world demand that I snap out of it?

One of the most powerful moments of the night was Miss Major’s defiant battle cry; I am still fucking here. At the film’s close, familiar and unfamiliar transgender women appeared on-screen, echoing this refrain. It was evidence of the resilience of the human spirit in a society and its systems which seek to destroy. And yet, there are so many who are not still here.

The empty seat beside me was glaring and I wept throughout the 8-minute standing ovation. Leaving the theater, I felt the full weight of having been a useless ally – mostly in theory and woefully out of practice. My daughter is gone, but I am still fucking here and I should damn well be putting that grief to work in her name.

For such inspiration and a renewed fire in your belly, I highly recommend checking out MAJOR!, when and where you can find it.

MANY THANKS to AJ Russo, who squired away tickets for J., Mouse and I to attend the event.

Visit the MAJOR! doc’s website: http://www.missmajorfilm.com/

Find out more about the work TGI Justice does here: http://www.tgijp.org/

 

 

 

Is Joe Lynch’s EVERLY the Chick Flick of the Year?

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Everly_posterI know. it’s early. I probably should have written SEASON, instead of YEAR, but I’m still riding out the tail end of the adrenaline rush I got from Joe Lynch’s wham-bam action flick staring the ever-awesome Salma Hayek. It’s possible I’m harboring an adrenal-bias.

And perhaps you’ll argue that I’m stretching the definition of Chick Flick here. Wikipedia defines the term Chick Flick as pertaining to “films that are heavy with emotion or contain themes that are relationship-based” and Everly is all of those things, while also being funny, gory and one hell of a thrill ride.

Salma Hayek’s Everly has got mother problems, daughter problems and ohmygod you wouldn’t believe the backstabbing bitches she works with. To top it all off she’s got a slave-driving boss who is so demanding that Everly hasn’t had a day off in years. What good are to-die-for shoes if you never get outside in them?

With notable support from Akie Kotabe, Laura Cepeda and Hiroyuki Watanabe, Salma Hayak carries the film effortlessly and it is only when the angelic Aisha Ayamah (as Everly’s daughter Maisey) is on screen, that you can tear your eyes off of her.

The script, co-written with Yale Hannon, is smart, funny and lean in all the right places. Unsurprisingly for fans of Joe Lynch’s previous films as well as The Movie Crypt and Holliston, there’s a horror sensibility at work here, and yet there is also restraint. Near the end, a exquisite scene with Hayek and Aisha Ayamah busts out of any genre mold you try to stuff Everly into. This breathless moment is indicative of that balance. Yes, Lynch grew up in the church of Tarantino but here he has succeeded in carving out his own space and it’s kind of fantastic.

Premiering at Fantastic Fest last September, Everly was released on iTunes and VOD January 23rd in advance of its February 27th theatrical release. In general, the trend of flip-flopping release dates has confused me, until now.

Who’s going to head to the theater to see Everly when they can watch it at home? This girl, and her shoot-em-up-lovin’ sister and every woman we know who’s been done wrong by a bad bad man and will take great pleasure in the vicarious revenge. See, I told you it was a chick flick.

(Jules Vilmur is a former film writer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Occasionally she comes across movies that make her wish she still had that column. This is one of those.)

Crossing Over; Bringing Powerful Stories to The Screen

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Brenda, Francis and Abigail are three transgender immigrants who fled Mexico to start new lives in the city of Los Angeles. After suffering mental and physical abuse in their home country, the three women made their ways to the United States, each eventually seeking political asylum.  But for each of these women, leaving home was only the first step. Transgender immigrants have an even harder time surviving in a new country because of issues caused by transphobia. Once in the United States, obstacles like discrimination, loneliness, and addiction continued, and in some cases continue, to stand in their way.  While some members of this community struggle against these obstacles, others are becoming advocates and activists, thereby proving what it truly means to be an American.

Crossing Over is the story of these three strong, transgender women who immigrated to escape a lifetime of sexual and mental abuse, and found that if they wanted a better life, they’d have to fight for it.

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A Date With The State Theater

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As children, Bullish and I received a balanced diet of books and movies. Our mother read to us every night and our father gave us the Saturday matinée. There were less cinema choices back then, and we almost always ended up at the long-gone Briggsmore Seven, right next door to the old Thrifty’s, where everyone got their candy cheap so they could afford that bigger bucket ‘o popcorn. Nowadays, we most frequently frequent our own home theater, streaming movies from Netflix, but when we DO splurge on the real thing, it’s almost always for a can’t-stand-to-miss-it date with The State.

We love The State Theater. From its historic roots and restored glamor to its eclectic mix of films and events, it is one of Modesto’s true treasures. Built in 1934 and restored to its current glory within the last decade, the theater has been functioning as a registered non-profit since 2005. The State’s mission includes “presenting a broadly inclusive and consistent schedule of classic, foreign and independent films, performing arts and entertainment events as well as educational, civic and social events“ and they have been delivering on that promise month after month.

With the Modesto Film Society (membership starting at $15 per season) and the Cinema Club(membership includes free passes to all nine films per season), as well as volunteer opportunities for many of their events, there are plenty of ways to get involved and show your support.

Of course, if you’re merely looking for a good time, a bag of real buttered popcorn, a glass of wine and the kind of movies you can’t catch at the megaplex, then join Bullish and I at the only theater in town where the center of the front row is still the best seat in the house. If you haven’t been, check out their Monthly Calendar below and pick out an event. If you already love The State, drop a note in the comment box and tell us the best thing you’ve seen there this year.

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damn you Charlie Kauffman

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“Everything is more complicated than you think. You only see a tenth of what is true. There are a million little strings attached to every choice you make; you can destroy your life every time you choose. But maybe you won’t know for twenty years. And you may never ever trace it to its source. And you only get one chance to play it out. Just try and figure out your own divorce. And they say there is no fate, but there is: it’s what you create. And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but it doesn’t really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is I feel so angry, and the truth is I feel so fucking sad, and the truth is I’ve felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long I’ve been pretending I’m OK, just to get along, just for, I don’t know why, maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own. Well, fuck everybody.”

Synecdoche, New York (2008)