Seattle’s TRANSlations, one of only nine trans film festivals in the world, begins screening films in person today.

Features and shorts from around the globe screen at Ark Lodge Cinema, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Beacon today and tomorrow, and attendees have the option to stream films through Sunday.

Produced by Three Dollar Bill Cinema, the festival started as part of a trans conference in Seattle 19 years ago. Anto(n) Astudillo, a New York-based trans filmmaker and curator from Chile who directed the festival, said that back in 2006, TRANSlations screened about 30 films; this year there are more than 70.

To prepare for TRANSlations, Astudillo and volunteers formed a screening committee to sift through the many entries, discussing what films made them feel good, and which did not.

“We went there because not only do we want to make films, show films, and have a community to talk about those things, but we want to feel good about who we are and how it’s presented,” he said. “There’s so much talk about misrepresentation—we don’t want that anymore, and everyone’s ready for new narratives. And everyone’s ready for the creative imagination in the community.”

Astudillo and the volunteers decided to focus on short films this year, which made up the bulk of submissions. That’s not surprising, as trans people, let alone trans filmmakers, don’t have gobs of money to throw around because of systemic poverty, discrimination, and barriers to the film industry. It follows that people with little funding will find creative solutions and produce shorter films. 

Astudillo said they wanted to use the festival programming to platform people who wouldn’t be platformed elsewhere and also offer panels to create a space for the community to discuss what they meant to them. Amid a rising tide of anti-trans sentiment and legislation restricting the civil rights of trans people, Astudillo said the screening committee felt strongly about picking films that offered a response.

There’s WE ARE HER, short films about notable trans women from past and present; LETTING GO & LETTING IN, a collection of stories focused on young people and family; and DANCING MAKES US BRAVE, a program that includes Jude Dennis’s diary film 002 Heresy, which documents a trans woman’s life in the American South, and Daisy: Prophet of the Apocalypse, Irish filmmaker Venus Patel’s story of a radical trans preacher prophesying salvation for anyone who renounces heterosexuality. A few other program highlights include shorts by First Nations trans filmmakers, which were selected by TILDE, an international trans film festival in Melbourne, Australia. 

Willow Skye-Biggs’s experimental fantasy film Dragonfly, makes its festival debut at the Ark Lodge tomorrow night, and another film of hers called Vapor Trails, a science-fiction love story between two trans women that previously played at festivals in London, Portland, Stockholm, and NewFest in New York (which Astudillo also curates), also plays Saturday.

Like many of the filmmakers in TRANSlations, Skye-Biggs is an industry outsider whose work has been “very independent” and shoestring. Most of her projects haven’t had a clear budget, and most of the money has come from local arts grants. (To make Dragonfly, Salt Lake Arts Council and National Endowment of the Arts gave her $15,000, which was “huge.”) For life and film, she depends on government subsidies.

Skye-Biggs lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, a state that has passed some of the most severe anti-trans bills in the county, including a law that pushes trans people from bathrooms and locker rooms on government property. Last weekend, a friend of hers left the state to escape constant worry over this law.

Skye-Biggs said her next project is the first thing she’s written since the laws have gone into effect. She weighed whether the characters in her next project needed to be trans or whether the film needed to be about transness at all. Right now, it does. Whether it is important to make more politically direct films at this moment, she has no idea.

“I also resent sometimes feeling those expectations and I know other people who resent feeling those expectations,” she said. “And sometimes, I think we just do our best.”

TRANSlations’ in-person screenings are June 7-8 with online screenings June 6-9. See the full schedule and get tickets at