GETTING READY for HOT DOCS premiere Wednesday night!!! red carpet look ?
this week i picked up on a thread of WILDNESS criticism from some toronto press- just wanted to address. it's impossible not to take these things personally on some level, so i own that. but it felt too loaded not to say something, even if it stirs the drama...
the criticsm is about my character and the bar's charcater: either that my character is self-promotional, or that the bar is annoying. these reactions feel soo connected to something major we struggled with, when creating the story: how to portray the "women of the silver platter" -who are the main subject of the film- without exploiting them? it's funny how in documentary, one of the most powerful ways to assert authority as a director, is to disappear. because it creates the illusion of objectivity and truth for viewers, so they can sit back and comfortably be voyeur to a world they're outside of. if the director appears, we have to contend with his relationship to the subject matter, such as transgender immigrant women.
i've seen a lot of problematic films about trans people of color like this, with invisible directors. it's always so interesting to later learn who the director was and what their motivation was to make the film.
not that it's an inherently bad thing to exploit minority subcultures even, because maybe that's the way to push society for acceptance (like for the sake of "visbility"). i just know that being a trans person, and having been exploited by media many times myself - i couldn't do that to the Silver Platter. I didn't want viewers to sit back at a comfortable distance. I included myself (young, college-educated, artist etc etc) at the risk of being vulnerable or even making people uncomfortable. i think repulsion comes from viewers having to see something reflected back, that's maybe closer to who they are.
i mean, during the writing process how many times did we ask ourselves: is this CRAZY to focus on the Wu character when the lives of the women of the bar are so amazing and their struggles so important? the hard answer after really thinking through the audiences, was yes. it is crazy, because it doesn't satisfy peoples pity-projections about the "authenticity" of a place like silver platter. we faced a lot of same attitude about wildness the party, so not surprised. (like people saying, "oh you think your party is so cool, like you discovered the bar." - and the whole point is, NO we did not. and no hipster party in any dive bar ever does - gross labels but i know that's how a lot of people think about it. furthermore it's so weird to contest in those terms.)
it also reminds me again how powerful documentary can be at seeming like the truth- because my character is not actually me (the director)- it's a version we invented of a young/idealistic/fallible foil to the bar, who has a wiser perspective. both voices are a composite of me and roya (rastegar, co-writer), and the bar is also culled from many testimonial interviews from the community...
if anything, the bar actually does speak in a voice that is "OF" the women of the silver platter, because it was written and performed in collaboration with mariana marroquin, who is a transwoman, immigrated from Gautemala. so she is not just a "subject" she is an actor who has agency to represent herself here. so anyone who says the bar's voice is annoying - i'm sorry i just gotta be a little like: OK so you'd rather WATCH the "real" women- you just don't want them to speak as auteur, in a style that is truer to them, or our communities. Okaaay. nothing more i can say to that... enjoy the show!