Trans Awareness Week: aGLIFF’s Bears Rebecca Fonté on Queer Cinema’s Power

“It's important that we have people who are telling our stories”

A few introductory facts about Bears Rebecca Fonté: She has a cat named Buttons who experiences the inverse of Zoom fatigue; her virtual meeting backgrounds are excellent; and she used to, in fact, be a theatre person.

Yet plays never spoke to the local filmmaker, artistic director of Austin’s queer film fest, aGLIFF, and founder of the Other Worlds Film Festival with the same fervor as films did.

Why? Because theatre’s impermanence couldn’t compare to the far-reaching effects of film, explains Fonté: Unlike a live performance, movies are more readily accessible – offering seemingly limitless chances for LGBTQIA people to discover themselves onscreen. “Film is everywhere,” says Fonté. “You can do anything in film.”

Bears Rebecca Fonté, artistic director of aGLIFF and founder of Other Worlds Film Festival (Courtesy of Motley Crew Media)

Films – and the narratives contained within them – continue in their importance to Fonté, who says her earlier screenwriting work dawned part of her transition awakening. After years of writing characters for her friend – characters who represented Fonté’s idea of the perfect female persona – she realized those characters “were actually who I wanted to be myself as a person. … It was sort of the door into my self-understanding.” Fonté’s official coming-out to the world was through a Kickstarter campaign for her 2019 short film, Conversion Therapist, an ultra-violent thriller about a queer polyamorous trio who kidnap and torture a conversion therapist. Although she can’t speak for everyone’s journey, says Fonté, she prioritizes honesty and authenticity in the experiences she tells onscreen. “It's important for our [LGBTQIA] community that we have people who are telling our stories and who are able to be a beacon for people who haven't come out yet.”

Since being named aGLIFF’s artistic director earlier this year, Fonté has focused her programming on finding those under-represented narratives both in front of and behind the camera. Not a particular fan of the “coming-of-gay” stories – which Fonté describes as the rote formula of combined coming-out and coming-of-age tropes – she keeps her eyes set on films that show a strong voice from their writers and directors, preferring most often writer/directors who produce movies that last in the audience consciousness. For Fonté, the ideal festival pick is a film that “you're going to want to remember it, you're going to talk about it the next day, because you can tell that that movie could have only been made by that team.”

Fonté, having worked in both queer and genre film worlds, says the two spheres have much in common. Both represent groups of like-minded folks coming together to celebrate their shared interests, which make them very open to films like Fonté’s Conversion Therapist that blur the lines between queer and genre cinema – not unlike Fonté herself. Still, queer film fests were where she felt most comfortable, and after watching aGLIFF’s screening in 2014 of Eric Schaeffer’s trans romantic comedy, Boy Meets Girl, Fonté finally saw herself reflected onscreen.

“That was when I came out to myself,” says Fonté. “It was like, ‘Okay, this is the journey I'm on – I finally actually know where I'm trying to get to.’”

Recognized every year in November, Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19) celebrates and uplifts the voices, experiences, and achievements of trans and nonbinary communities around the world. The week culminates with Transgender Day of Remembrance (Sat., Nov. 20), an annual observance honoring the lives of those who have been lost to anti-trans violence. The Transgender Education Network of Texas hosts its virtual TDOR event this Sat., Nov. 20, 6pm.

In celebration of this year’s Trans Awareness Week, The Austin Chronicle’s Qmmunity section spotlights members of Austin’s trans and nonbinary community with stories published daily online this Mon.-Fri., Nov. 15-19.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Transgender Awareness Week 2021, Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021, Bears Rebecca Fonté, Austin filmmakers, aGLIFF, Other Worlds Film Festival, Conversion Therapist

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