7 Independent Trans Filmmakers You Ought To Know

Trailblazers in their communities through creating media from authentic Trans and QTPOC perspectives and expressing their visions for all to see through their artistic work - Ewan Duarte

By  Guest Writer

December 10, 2016

intended to curate and write an article about a diverse selection of Independent Trans Filmmakers who are making wonderful and impactful work for a wider audience to discover. As well as curating and writing this piece, I’m also including myself and my film/media work in it—since I’m an Independent Trans Filmmaker. I hope you enjoy the diverse selection of Independent Trans Filmmakers below who are trailblazers in their communities through creating media from authentic Trans and QTPOC perspectives and expressing their visions for all to see through their artistic work. It is increasingly vital for Trans and QTPOC filmmakers to be the ones to tell their own stories and experiences through media from their perspectives. Read on to learn more about these seven Independent Trans Filmmakers who are making waves; Seyi Adebanjo, Ashley Altadonna, Shaan Dasani, Mikki del Monico, Ewan Duarte, Sam Feder, and Sydney Freeland!

Here’s 7 Independent Filmmakers You Ought To Know by Ewan Duarte


Seyi Adebanjo is a Queer gender-non-conforming Nigerian MFA artist.  Seyi is a media artist who raises awareness around social issues through digital video, multimedia photography and writings. Seyi’s work is the intersection of art, media, imagination, ritual and politics. Seyi has been an artist in resident with Allgo and is exhibiting at the Longwood Art Gallery and previously at the Skylight Gallery -Restoration Plaza Corporation, Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance (BAAD!), MCNY, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art & Waterloo Arts Gallery.  Seyi is currently a fellow with AIM at the Bronx Museum and has been a fellow with The Laundromat Project, Queer/Art/Mentorship, Maysles Institute, IFP and City Lore Documentary Institute. Seyi’s powerful short Trans Lives Matter! Justice for Islan Nettles has screened on PBS Channel 13, Brooklyn Museum and continues to screen globally.  Seyi’s current documentary Ọya: Something Happened On The Way To West Africa! is the recipient of the Best Documentary Short- Drama Baltimore International Black Film Festival.  The documentary is screening globally and on a speaking tour.

1. Tell me about your most recent film, Oya. What inspired you to make this film?

“I am from this place but not of it. I am of this place but not from it.” I am a Queer Gender-Non-Conforming Nigerian who returns home to speak directly with my ancestors, connect with Òrìṣà (African God/dess) tradition, and follow a trail back to the powerful legacy of my great grandmother, Chief Moloran Ìyá Ọlọ́ya. This documentary vibrantly investigates the heritage of command, mythology, gender fluidity, womyn’s power in indigenous Yorùbá spirituality. During this personal and political story my journey is to locate the gender fluidity that is an important part of the Yorùbá inheritance (for myself and others.) Gender dynamism supports a traditional legacy of power. As I encounter obstacles of a national strike and anti-gay marriage legislation to find the roots of the practice, will I be able to find affirmation for myself as a person between genders/ worlds and take on this inheritance?

Seeing limiting or no representation of Queer Gender Fluid immigrants, spiritualist, and People of African Descent I knew it was important to strengthen a new story and affirm the identities of people who cross the border of gender/spirit/sexuality. I wanted to tell a tale not often heard about gender and Indigenous Yorùbá Spirituality. With all the post-colonial criminalization laws passed in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, Ukraine & 75 other nations globally, Queers/Trans/ Gender Non Conforming people are receiving decades and/or life imprisonment. People have been arrested and killed.   Actively showcasing Queer Trans/Gender Non Conforming People Of Color is imperative and urgent because if people continue to think the divine doesn’t love them, how will people get strength to fight, love, live, worship and get out of bed every morning?  For any of us to do this work on an individual, community, and institutional level we need to know we matter and see ourselves reflected.

2. What did you learn the most from working on Oya? 

What I learned the most from working on Ọya: Something Happened On The Way To West Africa! is to trust myself.  Filmmaking is a very subject field and process where everyone has an opinion on your work and what type of film they would like to see.  During the challenges which come with the production and post-production of a film I was inundated with solicited and unsolicited opinions and theories.  I relearned people will give you their opinion from their worldview. Most of the worldview I received was from the lens of white supremacy and patriarchy.  Through this white gaze, people wanted a poverty porn film about Nigeria, the oppression of womyn, trans folks, queers, female genital mutilation, hardships of my family, a first person narrative about my life, etc; all films which I was not making nor wanted to make. Institutional oppression and other factors make it imperative for me to frame the dialogue when it comes to Queer & Trans* People of Color, especially immigrants.  Representation matters.  Seeing myself and my community visualized is significant and I want to do it with humanity, dignity and power.

Learning to have a small team to view cuts and bounce ideas off were important.  This team had political sensibilities, theory, techniques, practice as artist/ educators. Im grateful to the spirits, people, filmmakers and community members and family who became that core to anchor my process.  The most important lesson, was trusting my own voice/vision.  I recommend to people creating films to have a core team to support you in this endeavor, be as clear as possible in your vision when articulating it to yourself and others.  The people who need to support you will come on board because of the trust and confidence you have about the project.

3. What’s next? 

A short Afro-Surrealism, Docu-narrative film, I will experiment with ritual, the erotic and gender expression through spirituality and mythology. I will transform and re-appropriate mythology and desire for Queer Trans/ Gender Non Conforming People Of Color ritualistically into images of our own creation. Re-imaging the erotic will give strength to a new story and people who cross the border of gender/spirit/sexuality.

4. Can you tell me about your identity and how that is interwoven in your filmmaking process?

I am a media artist who raises awareness around social issues through multi-media photography, digital video and writings.  I thus incorporate media activism with my passion for social justice and community building.  My work is the intersection of art, media, imagination, ritual and politics. My work is lyrical, engaging people in trans-formative, political and spiritual dialogues.  My art communicates with a distinct voice on many themes: gender fluidity, Queerness, spirituality, “Womyn” of Color, transgender People of Color, and white supremacy.