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Timely Transgender Documentary a Highlight at NYC Indie Film Festival

By Donna M. Airoldi | October 18, 2013 10:20am
 Nearly 150 movies will be screened as part of the festival October 18-20.
NYC Indie Film Fest Highlights
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NEW YORK — By conservative counts, at least 15 people are killed each year in the United States for being transgender. Some 55 percent of transgender youths report physical attacks, while more than 33 percent attempt suicide.

These are just some of the statistics highlighted in the documentary “Transgender Tuesdays: A Clinic in the Tenderloin,” a moving portrait of one of the first health clinics to specifically serve transgender people.

The movie, screening Saturday at 9:15 p.m., is one of 122 films being shown in the fourth annual NYC Independent Film Festival.

"Transgender Tuesdays" opens with the personal stories of 12 transgender patients at the Tom Waddell Health Center in San Francisco. Many believe this group faces more discrimination than other members of the LGBT community, which was discussed on the local level after the killing of transgender woman Islan Nettles in Harlem this August.

“I think it’s much better to get to know people before they become statistics," "Transgender Tuesdays" director Mark Freeman said. "The only time somebody pays attention to the authentic lives of this group is when somebody dies, so instead of that, what you get to see is people talking." 

“When you know these stories, you don’t just see these people like everyone else, you see them as heroic,” he continued. “Almost by definition, transgender people are openly living the life that’s contradicted by their birth status. It takes an incredible amount of courage and an incredible amount of risk.”

Freeman, a family nurse practitioner who helped found the Transgender Tuesdays clinic and retired from it in 2011, said he and others in the health care community in the 1980s and early '90s noticed that, unlike other members of the LGBT community, transgender people were not coming into the clinics for treatment for HIV or other illnesses.

“The center was the first public health clinic in the country to provide medication for people in order to get them into care,” Freeman said. “They came for the hormones and stayed for the health care. About 600 came within the first five years, and we’ve treated more than 1,500 since opening.”

With 44 screenings, the NYC Independent Film Festival spotlights low-budget and non-mainstream works from around the world. The event will run through Oct. 20 and include panels for screenwriting, documentaries, acting, directing and producing.

“There’s also a documentary about American veterans dealing with PTSD and Gulf Syndrome, and comedies. One is about moose dating and another about a cat in space,” said festival founder and director Dennis Cieri, who launched the festival in 2009.

Several of the selections are either set in New York or directed by New Yorkers, Cieri said.

“We’re hosting a special music video event on Saturday night at the Playwright Celtic Pub, and about half of the 16 videos are made by New Yorkers. Attendees will be able to talk to the directors and vote for their favorite videos.”

Other titles by locals include “Rabbit Stories,” “Silent Wave,” the animated “MooseDate.com” and “Balloon Cat,” and “Duck Diaries: A Cold War Quest for Friendship Across the Americas.”

The latter is about the journey of seven recent college graduates who set out in 1961 on a goodwill tour through Mexico and Central and South America in a surplus Army amphibian named El Pato Valiente. It includes footage shot during the trip and interviews of the surviving participants, and is directed by CNBC journalist Matt Twomey, whose father was one of the travelers.

Tickets are still available online or at the screening venues: the Producer’s Club at 358 W. 44th St., and Ripley Grier Studios, 520 Eighth Ave., 16th floor. A weekend pass for $185 allows access into all the weekend’s screenings, panels and parties. Daily passes are $40 for Friday, $85 for Saturday and $64 for Sunday. Individual screenings are $12, $13.50, if purchased online.