This week has been the Inside Out Film Festival‘s 25th year in Toronto. Each year, the festival delivers a showcase of fabulous local talent – Mixed Shorts:Local Heroes. Vince Racanelli’s short documentary “What Makes Me a Woman” made this years official selection for Local Heroes. His film poses a simple question, and receives a simple answer – from me! Vince followed me around for a few weeks with his crew catching pieces of my life that I had no idea how he was going to weave together. I decided to turn tables on my director and ask him a few questions!

JV: How long have you been a filmmaker?
VR: I’ve been experimenting with film since I was about 12 years old. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do because it’s such a creative process.

JV: Who else was involved in creating the documentary?
VR: I am fortunate to have had an amazing team working behind What Makes Me a Woman. Kyle Reaume, our Editor/Sound mixer, and Alexandra Laurenza our cinematographer. We did however take on other roles as a team and equally had the same amount of passion. Our main goal was to create something that would speak to people.

JV: What was your motivation to make a documentary about a transgender person?
VR: I have a lot of passion for the trans community. I learned a lot about myself throughout this process. When you came across my mind, I knew you’d make a perfect subject. You’ve always been a huge inspiration for me. I didn’t know what it would be about. To be honest, even during the filming, I was still confused. You just so happened to have a scheduled consultation for a breast augmentation when we contacted you. But as the time started to pass, I still didn’t know what the pieces of this film would create. Then one day as my team and I were having a pow-wow, Kyle brought up a line you said during the interview. “What makes me a woman is that I tell you I am.” He suggested we focus on the gender identity portion of the film, and go from there. This is the moment when everything started to make sense. That’s where my passion came from, the power an individual has over their own identity.

what makes me a woman

JV: Were there any difficult decisions you had to make in the filmmaking process?
VR: There was a point during the project where I had to make a decision to film a show at your party, BAD TUCK (coming up again at the Beaver this Saturday May 30th!). We filmed the process of you getting ready, leaving your apartment and arriving at the destination. While we were there we found out that the show didn’t start until 1am. Being out of the city folk, it’s hard to cab all the way home because it gets expensive. The executive decision was to not include the show. My team had left but something told me to stay and record the show on my iPhone. To this day, I am grateful I got to experience such a show and have footage to include in the doc.

JV: How did it feel to be selected for the Inside Out Film Festival?
VR: Out of this world fantastic! We are forever grateful to have been noticed by such a well recognized festival. We couldn’t be happier.

JV: Why do you think it’s important to tell stories like this one?
VR: I think it’s important because it develops mutual emotions. It resonates with people in a positive way. It not only educates people but it also normalizes the subject.

JV: What are you currently working on/what’s next for you in filmmaking?
VR: Since the doc my team and I, as well as other amazing aspiring filmmakers have been working on a couple short films. As artists we are constantly working and honing our craft. The film that is currently submitted to a couple festivals is called Lazarus directed by Kyle Reaume.

Mixed Shorts: Local Heroes screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday 28 May 28th at 7.30pm (coincidentally, it was the one year anniversary of my breast surgery!)

About the Author

Judy Virago is a transgender writer and performer living in Toronto. A background in theatre, activism and government social policy has informed her interest in transgender rights and visibility. She is the co-founder of the queer art collective The House of Filth and was voted "Runner Up" for Now Magazine's Best Toronto Drag Queen 2015. She takes her inspiration from fierce, fabulous creatures who have soared to stardom, fallen from grace, and clawed their way back to the top.