“Should we start something?” These were the four words needed for Andrew Robbins and Kalil Cohen to go down the nine-month path of turning the idea of a trans and queergender film festival into a reality. A mutual friend connected the two — Cohen previously ran a trans film festival in L.A and Robbins studies trans film festivals, so the match was a natural fit. After geeking out over their shared love of different directors and common experiences, the plan came together.
The Rewire Film Festival, co-organized by the two, launched on Oct. 19 with “Gender Fuck,” a screening of erotic shorts with three more events upcoming. “The porn is always a crowd favorite,” remarked Cohen. “That seemed like a good first screening to hook people in.”
The first event of four was a success, and a moment of both relief and excitement for the two. Being a trans and genderqueer event, the two are aware of the limited demographic. “It’s a subculture of a subculture,” joked Cohen. “Are the 10 trans people I know in Eugene gonna be coming to this screening?”
Rewire seeks to give trans and queergender filmmakers a platform for their content and the encouragement to keep them going. “It’s so hard to be an independent filmmaker,” said Cohen. “Most people pay to make their films and maybe get that money back. So creating a space where that can be celebrated and shared and appreciated I think helps people keep going.”
“You’re inspiring people. They don’t have to be professionals; if they can get a camera and they have a story to tell, they can make a movie,” added Robbins about the empowering nature of this content for audience members. “Nobody is gonna screen something at a trans festival for money. It’s more about community connection and having a platform.”
Rewire, like other film festivals, can offer the springboard that some creators might need to go from a passion project to getting paid for their content. But beyond supporting filmmakers, Rewire challenges preconceived notions of what trans and genderqueer media is and can be by exploring genre and audience. The upcoming event on Oct. 30 is a screening of a sci-fi film titled “Transinfinite,” featuring a talk with the filmmakers Aja Pop and D’Lo. “It’s not just about identity — Art is really the focus,” said Cohen.
Cohen and Robbins avoided using trans in the festival name in an effort to avoid the art becoming only about gender identity. The pair also want to disrupt the general understanding and notion of trans and genderqueer media. In 1997, San Francisco started the first and longest running trans festival, a personal inspiration of Robbins who studies the trans film festivals of the city in particular.
Only one event into the first year of the festival, the two can’t help but imagine the future possibilities. “One thing we’re talking about is taking it to Portland for a totally different and bigger audience and maybe just do a weekend screening,” Robbins said. The two also have ideas for touring colleges and doing screenings and lectures, but the current goal is to make sure it becomes an annual event. “Bigger and bigger,” joked Robbins.
Correction: An earlier version of this article used the term 'queergender' instead of 'genderqueer', as well as incorrectly capitalized the name of the filmmaker D'Lo.