- Author(s): Gabriel S. Estrada
- When: 2017-04
- Where: Journal of Religion & Film
Independent directors Peter Bratt, Adrian Baker, and Avila-Hanna create differing trans-border queer Indigenous media that resist Eurocentric cic-heteropatriarchy. While Bratt’s feature-length narrative film La Mission (2009) features a masculine Mexica gay teenager who survives fused homophobic and trans*-phobic violence, Baker’s short animation Two Spirit: Injunuity (2013) makes stronger trans* and two-spirit Mexica youth identity affirmations. Avila-Hanna’s short documentary Libertad (2015) offers the clearest transgender narrative of the three films as it focuses on a California transgender Mixtec immigrant activist who is coming of age as a woman with the aid of hormones and gender affirming surgery. This article’s trans*- and Indigenous-centered film analysis complements their three works. Related classical and contemporary Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec time/space cosmologies that link the southern direction with youth or water structure this film analysis of Mesoamerican permutations of non-cis-normative, or trans*, identity. Expanding upon the Chicana and Mexica queer spatial analysis in Facio and Lara’s Fleshing the Spirit anthology, this current work actually builds upon Estrada’s previous nahui ollin (four directions or four movements) Indigenous film methodology. Starting in the East and moving in a cross-wise motion of east/masculinity, west/femininity, north/elders and south/youth, this article follows a nahui ollin and Indigenous trans* approach to interpreting the youth-oriented La Mission and Two Spirits: Injunuity films. Cosmological readings of Mixtec and Zapotec southern directions that involve female water deities guide the final film interpretation of Libertad. Dressed in Zapotecs women’s clothes that evoke watery femininity, Libertad’s Mixtec transgender protagonist gains access to her transgender gender affirming surgery through activism and prayers to a Mixtec Madonna linked to the ocean. Each media uniquely adds to a constellation of gay, two-spirit, and transgender Indigenous images that feature strong Indigenous gender activism, cosmological directionality, and prayer.