Avoiding cinematic clichés is one pitfall any decent filmmaker tries to avoid but there was one point in “More Than T,” a new 53-minute documentary from trans director Silas Howard (“Transparent,” “This is Us”) when diving right into the cliché made sense.
In this case, it pertained to D.C. resident Joanna Cifredo who’s seen in the film applying makeup.
“Showing trans women putting on makeup is one of the worst clichés,” says Jen Richards, a creative consultant on the film who helped Howard make it. “You see that in so many films and it’s just such a cliché. But Joanna has some really nuanced, deep thinking on the role of beauty in the lives of women. She grew up in a Latina culture so for her, showing her applying makeup became a way for her to claim that power. We didn’t want her to be reduced by it, but we wanted to show it so we were sort of leaning into the cliché we wanted to avoid. The film is full of these little surprises between what’s expected and what’s revealed.”
“More Than T,” commissioned by M•A•C Cosmetics and its philanthropic arm, the M•A•C AIDS Fund, features seven transgender subjects from diverse walks of life. It premiered last weekend at Frameline, a San Francisco LGBT film festival, and will air June 23 on Showtime at 7 p.m. Thereafter it can be found on Showtime Anytime and Showtime On Demand.
Elsewhere, though, Richards, who’s trans herself, says the filmmakers purposefully avoided trans clichés like surgery obsession and what she calls “pity porn — a prurient interest in the tragedy of trans lives.”
“So often, trans portrayals on film have been made by non-trans people,” she says. “They often take a perspective that reflects their own interest rather than that of trans people. … We didn’t want to reduce them. With these seven subjects, you’ll see their whole, complicated selves.”