The work of 19 young queer and transgender filmmakers from around the world will be on display this weekend at the Peabody Essex Museum as part of the Panorama film festival.
“We have an amazing weekend of cinematic queerness and transness lined up,” said Jasper Lior, cofounder of Salem-based production company Queer Videography.
The festival is a collaboration between Queer Videography, artist Mac Allen and the Peabody Essex Museum. A mix of animated, live-action and documentary short films will be shown over the weekend, both new and previously screened submissions.
Friday's kickoff event will feature drag performances, including from Salem's Miz Diamond Wigfall, as well as a runway, photo opportunities and, of course, the film lineup.
One of those films is "Dear Nancy, Sincerely Addy," a short personal narrative by trans filmmaker Adriel Bernal. It's about a "transgender man getting closure from his younger self, who was once named Nancy, and born female."
“It’s like a little love letter, looking back on the journey," Bernal said.
Bernal said he made other short films throughout high school and college. When he needed new work to submit with grant applications, he decided to reflect on his transition in a documentary.
Early scenes in the film show Bernal looking through childhood photos. He remembered feeling like he wanted to be a boy and dress in more masculine clothing, and with early photos and videos, Bernal said he aimed to capture that innocence.
“I just started writing, like, thinking back when did the problem start? When did I feel out of place? And of course, I felt out of place when I was little, like in elementary school," he said.
Bernal wrote and directed the film in just a few days in January 2023, and soon, it was ready to submit to festivals. It was accepted to Panorama earlier this year and shown at Panorama's summer screenings.
“I was really excited,“ Bernal said. “And that was actually my first film festival.“
He traveled from California to Salem to attend the June festival in person. “Being able to see my film on the big screen was like, ‘woah.’ And hearing like, ‘Wow, it was such a beautiful story’ was even more rewarding,“ he said.
It's that sense of joy and community that the team behind the festival hopes to create for queer people again this weekend.
“To have a space that is a trans space, that is focused on joy and celebration, and a place where we can all come together as our own community and just be happy, I think is very important,” Lior said.
All of the festival's featured films were made by a queer or trans person, but not all the films center on identity.
“You don’t have to make a film about your identity. You don’t have to represent your entire community,” said Ilan Kapra, another cofounder of Queer Videography. “This is just a space for us to celebrate art made by a traditionally very marginalized community that is hard to have your voice seen sometimes.”
For the Peabody Essex Museum, the festival is an opportunity to reach out the North Shore's larger queer community, like the North Shore Alliance of GLBTQ Youth.
Hannah Varden, the museum's civic engagement and public programs assistant, said it's important for young people to see filmmakers who are close in age be validated in their work and identity by a place like the PEM.
The organizers are excited for the weekend, which they hope will be a safe and celebratory space.
“World class drag right here on the North Shore of Massachusetts is just such a gift … and for free? I mean, it’s gonna be amazing,” Kapra said. “I call it my gay church.”
Panorama will be livestreamed on YouTube Dec. 29-31, and free tickets to the event are available.