A trans activist's journey challenging censorship policies at Facebook and Instagram.
Interview with Writers/Directors/Producers Milena Salazar and Joella Cabalu
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Milena Salazar: I came across Courtney's project when her #DoIHaveBoobsNow photos were being shared on social media. I knew immediately that I wanted to make a film about her because she had found a brilliant way to call out double standards and sexism in a way that was very accessible, easy to understand even for people who were not already taking part in this discussion. As a woman, these issues interest me and shape my life, and Courtney was tackling these questions from a very unique point of view.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Joella Cabalu: Courtney's campaign went viral back in 2015 and reached a global audience, so Slamdance audience members may have heard about her! She was interviewed by many media outlets, most notably The Guardian and The Young Turks, and developed a legion of followers, especially within the trans community. Beyond the fascinating and thought-provoking topic about social media censorship which can affect anyone who uses the internet, what I was curious to learn more about was how this person from the small corner of Canada was able to engage an international audience and with that exposure, how did they manage to cope with the praise and harsh criticism and harassment? And what was the impact one year later, after the campaign ended and the media attention withdrew?
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
JC: Though this is a portrait of a trans activist reflecting on this incredible chapter of her life, it's also story that a generation of people who rely heavily on the internet for social networking can relate to. It brings to question what structures both on and offline are dictating our activity on the internet and our conduct with each other.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
MS: I met Courtney through a mutual friend and first filmed her in 2015 when the campaign launched. Although the original intent was to capture the campaign as it unfolded, due to timing and resources we shifted our focus away from that, and instead into a reflection one year later on how the campaign and being thrust on the global spotlight had impacted Courtney personally. We wanted to balance the facts of the campaign with Courtney's insights and feelings on issues like body image, street harassment and gender norms.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
MS: We premiered at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival in August and won the OUTtvGO People's Choice Award for Best Short! It has stirred conversation amongst transgender and cisgender people on a number of issues like the censorship of feminine bodies as well as street harassment. We've also had some important discussions about the fact that we are two cisgender women telling a trans woman's story. As documentary filmmakers and women of colour, we understand the importance of representation in front and behind the camera. We are humbled that Courtney trusted us with her story and we recognize it is crucial that our industry creates opportunities and lifts up the voices of diverse filmmakers so that communities can tell their own stories.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
MS: We're pleased with the feedback as these were discussions we were hoping to have! We are happy that Courtney's activism has been resonating with audiences and it has opened up conversations about gender, sexualization, censorship, and representation.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
MS: Our goal is to amplify Courtney's voice and activism so we hope to connect with an even larger audience!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
MS: We would love to see this film play as widely as possible in the festival circuit! We have distribution in Canada through the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and through Out In Schools, so we hope to find other opportunities to share the film through educational distribution in other regions.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
MS: We hope that this film creates a space for audiences to question how gender norms function in our society, and how the sexualization and censorship of feminine and diverse bodies can act as an oppressive force on some people. We encourage people to read Courtney's original piece in Mashable that launched the #DoIHaveBoobsNow campaign.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
JC: For me, at the core of this conversation on censorship is the question: why and how are feminine bodies sexualized? One example that comes to mind is that Courtney's campaign also opened up discussions about breastfeeding in public. In a sense, I hope the film sparks conversations about the ways in which society and our own behaviours admonish the presentation of feminine bodies.
Would you like to add anything else?
JC: As independent emerging filmmakers, we decided to produce this film by self-financing the production and we are grateful to the National Film Board of Canada who provided support in our post-production stage. It is such a thrill to be recognized at the Slamdance Film Festival and we thank We Are Moving Stories for the opportunity to share our film!
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
MS: I am developing a few projects back home in Costa Rica, one of them a very personal and intimate look at aging and companionship focusing on my grandparents.
JC: I'm finishing up a festival run for another short documentary that I produced FIXED! (Palm Springs ShortFest 2017, Planet in Focus Film Festival 2017) and I'm also developing a personal short doc looking at the concept of winning when it comes to Filipino women dating white men.
Interview: January 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Do I Have Boobs Now?
A trans activist's journey challenging censorship policies at Facebook and Instagram
Director: Milena Salazar and Joella Cabalu
Producer: Milena Salazar and Joella Cabalu
Writer: Milena Salazar and Joella Cabalu
About the writer, director and producer:
Milena Salazar is a Costa Rican filmmaker based in Vancouver, BC. Her work as a documentary director, editor or cinematographer has screened at festivals, online, broadcast, and on Air Canada inflight entertainment systems. In 2016, she was selected as 1 of 8 emerging filmmakers from across Canada to participate in the Hot Docs Doc Accelerator Program, and she is a fellow of the 2017 RIDM Talent Lab.
Joella Cabalu is a Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker, whose first feature documentary It Runs in the Family won awards at the 2016 Vancouver Queer Film Festival and 2016 Seattle Asian American Film Festival including a special jury mention at the 2016 CAAMFest. She was a fellow of the Hot Docs Diverse Voices Program (2015) as well as the CBC Development Workshop for Diverse Creators (2017) in Toronto, Canada.
Key cast: Courtney Demone
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Film festival directors, distributors
Social media handles
Funders: Independent production, made with support from the National Film Board of Canada
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
At Slamdance (Jan 23), Indiana Bloomington Pride (Jan 27) and the ReelOut Queer Film + Video Festival in Kingston, Ontario (Feb 4).