To celebrate the release of Kokomo City on Fri 4 Aug, we’ve rounded up five short films about the Black trans experience in North America that allow their subjects to tell their own stories.

Behind Every Good Man / Nick Elliot / 1967 / USA / 9 mins

A day in the life of a Black trans woman in 1960s Los Angeles. As we follow her through the city streets we hear her story in voiceover; later we wait with her  as she gets ready for a date that evening. Despite the hardship she’s experienced, she is positive and gentle, chronicling her hopes and dreams over a soulful soundtrack.

Director Nick Elliot is known primarily as a cinematographer and director of queer adult films but Behind Every Good Man, shot in soft black and white, is more evocative of the work of Maya Deren. Lyrical but understated, Elliot’s remarkable student film is a poignant time capsule of the 1960s trans experience.

Watch the full film here.

I’d like to live a respectable life, that’s for sure. I’d like to live a happy life.

Behind Every Good Man

Passing /  J. Mitchel Reed, Lucah Rosenberg-Lee / 2015 / Canada / 23 mins

Three trans men of colour, including co-director Lucah Rosenberg-Lee, discuss an overlooked topic: the social and psychological pressure of “passing” and its counter-issue: the anxieties that passing can raise for trans folk.

Despite its gentle sensitivity, Passing is uncompromising in its message, with a decisive final line that will linger long after the credits finish rolling.

Watch the full film here.

The Personal Things / Tourmaline / 2016 / USA / 3 mins

Director and activist Tourmaline uses illustration by fellow trans artist Micah Bazant to illuminate the wisdom of legendary activist and Black trans elder, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

Her reflections on the changes she’s witnessed for trans women over the course of her life are a stark reminder of the level of oppression trans people have faced in recent history, yet she remains hopeful for the future.

Griffin-Gracy ponders how the everyday moments of life inform her activism, and how embracing individuality is just as vital to challenging the status quo as community-driven direct action.

Watch the full film here.

Across, Beyond, and Over / Brit Fryer, Noah Schamus / USA / 12 mins

Director Brit Fryer, a Black trans man, reconnects with his middle school sweetheart, also a trans man, to plan a narrative film about their shared past.

Their journey of mutual forgiveness and understanding is an uplifting balm to the dominant media focus and reveals a bond of trans camaraderie that eclipses their different paths.

The self-reflexivity of the film, which is as much a ‘behind-the-scenes’ of itself as anything else, is a symbolic nod to the power of choosing one’s own narrative.

Watch the full film here.

NASIR / Nasir Bailey,  Jackson Kroopf / 2021 / USA / 17 mins

Co-directed by friends and frequent collaborators Nasir Bailey and Jackson Kroopf, NASIR is an intimate snapshot of a budding musician as he comes out as transgender to his friends and family over a series of telephone calls.

Between calls he ruminates over his transition and how the reality of hormone therapy might impact his musical career. The considered but inventive filmmaking subtly reflects the complexities of Nasir’s situation and gradually unfolds the layers of his personality.

Watch the full film here.