Filmmaker Karleen Pendleton Jiménez on Why Stories Matter
Queer and trans experiences depicted in media need queer and trans voices behind them
We sat down with Trent Durham GTA’s Associate Dean Karleen Pendleton Jiménez to talk about the release of her new short film, The Butch and the Baby Daddy at the Reframe Film Festival. In the animated documentary, Dr. Pendleton Jiménez adapts her book How to Get a Girl Pregnant and tells the story of a trans/butch lesbian and her journey to fulfill her dream of having a child.
Why is it important to depict queer and trans stories in media?
Number One: Queer and Trans people need to see ourselves. You don’t even understand the hunger and loneliness you feel for representation, until you see it. It can make you cry and laugh at the same time. And I don’t mean a token character, the one gay guy in a sitcom, I mean stories written, directed, acted, filmed, and edited by queer and trans people. When we have the opportunity to create entire worlds through film, we have the chance to be whole.
Number Two: Because of living queer and trans lives, we have particular perspectives and knowledge about the world. For example, we might think deeply about gender, desire, belonging, family, friendships, community, nation, or power. I think it helps everyone when we’re able to contribute our two cents on how the world works.
Who is this story for?
It’s for: All Latina/o/xs to affirm that our lives have meaning; all queer and trans people who were ever told they couldn’t make family; all of the women who ever felt like they weren’t the right kind of mom; everyone who ever got trapped in the box of their identity and began to limit what they wanted to do. Why is the story for them? Because we deserve more love and less hurt.
What does it mean to you to be able to tell this particular story?
Trying to have a baby was one of the hardest things I ever did. It forced me to question every value I hold about what is good and beautiful in another human being. It forced me to question what my identity as a butch dyke/trans person meant as someone who wanted to have a child and be a mother. I experienced a profound humility, and powerlessness. I had the greatest adventures and scariest risks, most painful grief and loads of passion and joy. What would make for a better film?
Is there a reason you chose to make this short film as a piece of animation rather than using live action?
Barb Taylor, my co-director and co-conspirator, makes queer animated films and asked me if I wanted to make my memoir How to Get a Girl Pregnant into an animated film. I admit that at first, I hadn’t thought of it. I didn’t know as much about animation and I hadn’t realized all of the possibilities the medium offers. In animation, you can create a world with anything you can imagine. You can play with colour and symbols and music in incredible ways. Since trying to get pregnant was such a dreamy activity – full of daydreams and hopes and memories – I realized that animation is the ideal medium for this. Also, there is such little queer animation in the world, which made it exciting to imagine how to do it. How do queer and trans people walk, talk, dance, hurt, love, and so on across an animated screen?
What would you say to young creators who are interested in finding ways to share their stories?
Filmmaking is more possible than ever before! I watch 10-year-olds edit their films onto TikTok in five minutes time. It is accessible because of technology, software, and everyday skills doing it. I say, go for it! Make whatever you like: horror, mystery, romance, documentary. Start with one minute of filmmaking and keep going. There are film festivals all over that want your work.
We are terribly underrepresented in the film industry, especially women of any kind. Unless we are the directors, producers, camera people, editors, actors, and so on, we are merely pawns in straight white male movies.
Check out The Butch and the Baby Daddy by Associate Dean Pendleton Jiménez at the Reframe Film Festival or at a viewing event at Trent Durham or with the Frost Centre Traill Campus.