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Sam Hired as Festival Director for Translations Film Festival

Meet Sam Berliner, Translations Festival Director


Among many highlights coming this year to Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival, the most exciting of them all is our new Festival Director, Sam Berliner. Read on to learn more about Sam and what's in store for the 2013 edition of this groundbreaking and ever-evolving event.

How do you feel about taking on this position of Festival Director?

I am thrilled, grateful, and immensely honored to be taking on this position as Festival Director for Translations! As a trans filmmaker myself, I have a deep passion for and commitment to trans and queer cinema, and I am very excited to run this amazing festival with the folks from Three Dollar Bill Cinema. It is a fantastic opportunity to grow in my film festival work and that, combined with my passion for trans and queer film, is a dream come true.

What experience do you have that makes you a good fit for this job?

I have had the honor of working in various capacities over the past bunch of years with Frameline: The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival—the largest and oldest LGBT film festival in the world! In addition to working the actual 10 day festival and seeing first-hand how a huge festival runs, I have also sat on the screening committee for a few years helping to select the films that will play.

I have a BA in Film from Smith College and am currently earning my Masters of Fine Arts in Cinema from San Francisco State University. This study has given me a deep understanding and appreciation for film history, theory and practice, all of which will inform and contextualize my work as a programmer and curator for Translations.

Most personally, as a trans filmmaker myself who has worked in film production (directing, producing, camera department) for the last ten years, I am dedicated to providing a positive voice for trans, genderqueer, androgynous and gender-fluid folks not yet represented on screen, documenting our history, serving as a call to action to be recognized and respected by society at large, and urging our culture to evolve. This goal aligns so nicely with the position of Festival Director for Translations that I can’t quite believe it gets to be my job!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

What spare time? Haha. When I am not busy making and watching films (specifically my thesis film, DATING SUCKS: A GENDERQUEER MISADVENTURE, an animated documentary webseries about the successes, failures and overall confusion of myself trying to date as a genderqueer/trans person), I love live music, sailing, playing the bass guitar, going hiking, and sitting around my backyard fire pit with my friends and housemates. I also just started a trans/queer softball team for the spring season! I live in Berkeley, California and love to take advantage of all that the Bay Area has to offer, especially the beautiful landscape, museums, film festivals and queer/trans events!

Have you been involved with Three Dollar Bill Cinema before?

I have been lucky enough to have two of my films screen with Three Dollar Bill Cinema! Genderbusters, which won the audience award for Best Short Film at Translations in 2011, is a 6min film about gender superheroes (or “super queeros”) who drive around San Francisco and get people out of awkward binary-gender dilemmas. Perception, which screened in the SaturGay Morning Cartoons portion of the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 2011, is a 2min experimental animation exploring the disconnect between my own perception of self and how I am seen by the rest of the world, specifically facing the beginning of the journey of transition from female to male. The films have screened at over 60 film festivals around the world from Melbourne to Mumbai, Osaka to London, Tel Aviv to Rio de Janeiro and are distributed by CFMDC in Canada. I also frequently attend the Gender Odyssey Conference, held annually in August in Seattle, and had the pleasure of screening my work at the Conference through Three Dollar Bill Cinema. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of knowing Jason Plourde and Keith Bacon for the past couple years through the film festival community and am really excited to get to work with them both!

Why do you think the community needs a transgender film festival?

Film is powerful. As a gender-variant audience member, recognizing yourself on screen and being able to relate to the characters is unbelievably empowering and affirming. A transgender film festival offers a safe space to celebrate, honor, mourn, learn, grow, relate, cry, empathize, accept, laugh... It is a space that we can excitedly return to each year to keep tabs on this ever shifting and beautifully evolving community. It offers visibility, community building, and education, and is an opportunity to strengthen alliances among people of all genders.

What do people have to look forward to at this year’s festival?

I am so excited for this year’s festival. The team will be working hard to bring great films from around the world, fun shorts programs, panel discussions and special guests! I can’t wait.

Which Transgender or Queer folks do you look up to (living or passed)?

There have been so many pioneers that have come before me so that I can live as a genderqueer trans queer person! Of course Harvey Milk and his inspiring lesson of the power that goes along with coming out, his leadership, bravery and ability to incite action in others. I learned about Lou Sullivan, a gay FTM pioneer, from Sean Dorsey’s powerful dance performance, “Uncovered: The Diary Project.” I am a huge fan of Joe Stevens from the band Coyote Grace and his powerful lyrics that so eloquently illustrate his trans experience. Playwright Tobias K. Davis and director Claire Avitabile with the 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities are doing amazing work creating and producing trans and gender-variant plays, specifically “The Naked I: Monologues From Beyond The Binary” and “The Naked I: Wide Open.” I am totally stoked about the work around FTM sexuality and culture that Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos do with their quarterly magazine “Original Plumbing.” I can’t get enough of the webseries turned film festival favorite, “Falling In Love With Chris and Greg,” that offers brilliant and hilarious commentary on queer and trans culture from the perspective of trans-cis couple Chris Vargas and Greg Youmans. And I have to mention the books of Lynnee Breedlove, Kate Bornstein, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Morty Diamond and Jack Halberstam, and the films of Jamie Babbitt and Rhys Ernst. Whew! I could go on and on… With so much amazing work being done it is an exciting time to be trans!

Anything else?

You can check out my thesis' Facebook page at:, my website at, and other film work at I am currently working on getting “Genderbusters” out into schools, LGBTQ Centers, support groups, GSAs, PFLAGs etc. I also do speaking engagements with the film and can be reached at


For the full Translations 2013 lineup and to buy advance tickets, visit

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