What does it take for an undocumented transgender woman to live her truth? That’s the question at the heart of Steven Liang’s new film short film Afuera. Set in the same environment as last year’s critically acclaimed Sundance favorite Tangerine, Liang’s project focuses on Jennifer (played by trans Mexican actress Jennifer London) who is forced to resort to the sex trade to support herself. But while Tangerine, which featured Kitana Kiki Rodriguez as a trans hooker on rampage mode, went for broad comedy, Afuera opts instead for a more dramatic tone. The shots of late night Los Angeles streets add a dark feel to Jennifer’s plight and it’s obvious that there are larger issues at stake — even just in the trailer, it’s clear Jennifer’s lack of papers has restricted her options.
Liang’s hope is to explore the intersection between the immigrant and transgender experiences and it’s a testament to his commitment to this issue, that he’s replicated it in his behind-the-camera talent. Not only did he cast trans actors on screen but his crew hails from Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Peru among others, with a third identifying as LGBTQ. It definitely adds to the very spirit of the project which will no doubt broaden the conversation about trans people but will implore audiences to think about how minorities within the undocumented population are at even greater risk.
Afuera screens as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 3 and 7 and at the Nonplussed Film Festival on June 17. It’s also playing in San Francisco at the Frameline film fest on June 21 and 24.