Neelu Bhuman 2019 USA 1H 10m Sci-Fi
I Feel Transfinite
“Celestial Honey is making herself up at the swanky San Franciscan Fairmont hotel to unleash her next spell. Her target this time is a sleazy Politician who has the power to make real change happen at the White House. Looking mesmerizingly stunning, she follows the Politician’s security guard to meet him alone in his room. Without wasting any of her precious time as the Politician fumbles for her attention, with a clear list of demands she doms him into a purple spell.”
Her demands follow:
1. Unbiased gun control
2. No mass incarceration, deportations or immigration bans
3. Return stolen lands to native people
4. Free and unwhite - washed education for all
5. Liberation for all trans people
6. Affordable health care
7. Stop the lynching of black people
“The Politician without questioning takes her orders. Honey dances in the glorious sunshine as the executive orders are celebrated in front of The White House.“
Above is Viva, only one of the seven short stories featured in Transfinite. Honey’s demands are so poignant within today’s political climate of violence and death exacted upon marginalized groups, queer and trans people of color and America’s colonial foundation.
Transfinite is composed of “seven standalone short stories where supernatural trans and queer people from various cultures use their powers to protect, love, teach, fight, and thrive.” The film uses the genre of Science Fiction as a portal, allowing its characters to dream of a world where possibilities are endless, “blurring the lines between the magical and the real, personal, and political”. While many view science fiction as a genre that is merely used as a way to predict what's coming, in today's political climate it feels like Transfinite no longer just inhabits the queer utopia solely through the confines of its screen, but brings us closer to the everyday reality that we collectively share and experience in 2020.
The first story NAJMA opens up with Najma walking back and forth, debating if her boyfriend will accept the fact that she is a trans woman and the effects it will have on their life together. This is no new narrative for trans people; trans people often feel such things when embracing intimate relationships. The feelings of being scared of rejection are real truths when navigating intimacy. How this story differs from mainstream trans narratives is in Najma’s power and agency. Even though her boyfriend Darnell is madly in love with her, his best friend is transphobic and unaccepting of Darnell’s love for Najma. Her magical senses allow her to persuade his friend, through her intuitive powers, to accept their love. This is where the film first shows its experimental hybrid form of storytelling, incorporating animation as a way to show the power she has. Najma remains in control instead of showcasing violence and or hatred and resulting in a breakup. We as viewers can see she holds the power of her own narrative much like every character in this film.
The second short ASURA opens with a grandmother of trans femme and Asian descent, who guides her granddaughter through feelings of anger and aggression. This is a new perspective of the trans experience, as it features an elder. This is monumental to the representation of the QTIPOC community, as the statistics show that, for American trans women of color, surviving past 35 is a triumph in itself. In this story the magical wisdom of our queer ancestors comes forth. The grandmother teaches her that there is strength in living your truth. Their story is set against the backdrop of the San Francisco Bay with warmth and love. The magic of this story lies in its departure from what is deemed as stereotypical imagery.
Having lived in San Francisco for six years the story of Asura demonstrates an authentic representation of the city I once lived in: beaming with diversity, QTIPOC people and the backdrop of the San Francisco LGBTQIA+ historical and scenic magic.
The short stories of Transfinite continue offering further insight through a sci-fi approach to queer utopia. A utopia that allows throupples to exist freely, bullies to be dismantled, children of queer parents to roam free with their imagination, and that emphasises the connection we, as queer people, have to the Earth, our inner selves and each other. While giving homage to powerful practices and people such as Octavia Butler, Native American spirituality, and Bahari the film exudes the power of self-reflection, origin stories, beliefs and our connections to community and our ancestors.
Transfinite characters aren't necessarily controlled by their gender identity but rather simply exist. Their life, their love and their choices become normalized. As the grandmother from the Ausura story says, “true strength comes from living your truth” and “self acceptance is not easy”: these truths are ingrained throughout the film.
Transfinite departs from the censorship we so often see in queer and trans-centered films, not only from the screen but also the lack of queer and trans representation behind the camera. Written by seven individual trans* writers and directed by queer filmmaker Neelu Bhuman, the film's crew is equally as diverse and multicultural as the subjects who inhabit this beautiful film. The stories Transfinite shares are literally from those that experience it. There is power in those acting in this film, as well as the crew, because it is shared by an authentic group of voices that no other film I have seen encompasses.
What is so beautiful is that the film remains positive and gives light to the QTIPOC community, when much of what we experience are stories of QTIPOC being murdered, silenced and oppressed. This film strives to reshape the perspectives of QTIPOC people by presenting them as “warriors […] who choose to find inner power” in order ”to transform undesirable situations into ones that are desirable”. It gives hope to the trans and queer narratives, and humanizes our experiences as people.
As a trans identifying person I resonate with the film’s overall theme of being true to yourself and the magical connection to one's self, one’s journey and one’s identity, which allows a transfinite connection to emerge between who we are as people and the spaces we ihabit.