Arts·Here & Queer

Luminary filmmaker Luis De Filippis is helping lead the charge for a new era of trans representation

De Filippis sat down with Peter Knegt to chat about her acclaimed debut feature Something You Said Last Night and the Trans Film Mentorship program.

De Filippis sat down with Peter Knegt to chat about her debut feature Something You Said Last Night

Peter Knegt (left) sits down with Luis De Filippis at the Toronto International Film Festival. (CBC Arts)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists though unfiltered conversations.

While the Toronto International Film Festival is perhaps best known for its star-studded premieres of Hollywood films, it's also a pretty extraordinary launching pad for Canadian talent. And this year, audiences were offered quite an example of that via Luis De Filippis and her debut feature, Something You Said Last Night.

Winner of the festival's Changemaker Award, Something You Said Last Night stars Carmen Madonia (an incredible new Canadian talent in herself) as a trans woman in her mid-20s who goes on a vacation with her Italian-Canadian family.

Intimate and self-assured with several quietly moving performances, the film was certainly one of my personal highlights of TIFF — as was the opportunity to sit down with De Filippis and chat with her about the film as part of a new video series, Here & Queer.

You can watch the interview below:

Something You Said Last Night was part of a rather landmark edition of the festival for trans stories; De Filippis also helped organize the very first Trans Film Summit at the festival. She talked to me about her own history with seeing trans stories on screen, and how that may have influenced how she approached her first feature. 

"I feel like I didn't even know it, but my first exposure to trans people on screen was Scooby Doo in a dress," De Filippis says. "And somehow that spoke to me and I was like, 'Oh, I see myself in Scooby Doo in a dress.'"

"But then further down the line, trans characters were characters like in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, where their main hook was that they were trans. That was the main reason why they were on screen [and that] was the big reveal."

De Filippis said they wanted to approach their own work with just a desire to see something different.

"[I'm] so tired of seeing these films from the same perspectives, which is usually the cis perspective and where really what they're so interested in is the transition story or the mechanics of being trans or the coming out story," she says.

"We have so many other stories to tell and some of them, like this story, can be quite banal in a way. And to me, that's when we really got to a point of true representation, where we can have films where it is about a girl on vacation with her family, and that's all it has to be. And then she can be trans as well. I think it just speaks to our experiences more."

Carmen Madonia in Something You Said Last Night. (SJWIFF)

On the set of Something You Said Last Night, De Filippis and her team ran a mentorship program for trans youth, who went through the entire pre-production and production process with them.

"They were on set the entire time and I would say it was kind of trial by fire for them, but I'm really proud of where they've ended up," she says. "Now they're like, working constantly. Some of them are in unions or working toward being in unions; some of them have gone on to take film classes. And really, what mentorship does is it just offers opportunity that wasn't there before. It offers options that weren't there before."

A second iteration of that mentorship program happened on the set of the CBC series Sort Of earlier this year. The program has surely been a beacon of light for trans artists trying to build careers in a society that continues to exhibit vile and transphobic hostility, particularly in the wake of a marked increase in visibility in the last few years.

"I mean, whenever there's action, there's always a reaction," De Filippis says. "Right? And I think what we're seeing is just very much that. It's a reaction to trans people finally having a platform and finally being able to speak for themselves. So of course people are going to have problem with that."

"That being said, we're not going anywhere and we're going to keep making stories and we're going to keep showing up. And I think that's exactly what we should do."

Something You Said Last Night will screen as the Closing Night Film of the St. Johns International Women's Film Festival on October 23 before screening at both the Windsor International Film Festival (October 28 and 29) and Inside Out Ottawa (as the Opening Night Film, on November 10). It will be released in theatres in 2023.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada and nominated again this year) and hosting the video interview series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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