BY Julie Bolcer
April 23 2010 1:30 AM ET
On the eve of the world premiere of Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Israel Luna announced Thursday that he would blur out some letters in the controversial film’s title treatment and many marketing materials effectively immediately, a decision reached with input from Academy Award–winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
Luna and Black discussed the change in a call with The Advocate.
“I will be modifying or altering a lot of our marketing materials to greek out, or blur, some of the letters in the word, tranny,” said Luna, who called the film’s title the biggest point of contention in a video posted Thursday. Critics also have denounced the violence against transgender women in the film, described by Luna, who is gay, as a campy revenge fantasy in the style of I Spit on Your Grave from 1978.
Both champions and detractors sought advice from Black in recent weeks as the controversy expanded. It grew to encompass broad questions of free speech, exploitation, and narrative authority.
“I was being asked to jump in on both sides of this,” said Black, whose friend Willam Belli stars in the film. “The alarming thing to me is that it was shaping up to be an LGBT on LGBT scuffle. I stepped in to see if there wasn’t a way we could turn this into a constructive conversation.”
Black said that after conversations with community members including transgender women, he contacted Luna to suggest the idea of greeking, the practice of removing a letter or letters from a title and replacing them with an icon or asterisk.
“I said, 'Hey, is there any way that we could acknowledge that this word is pejorative to so many in the community, in the trans community, and acknowledge that in a way in your artwork, in your posters, and then it starts that conversation, so that when people see it, they go, ‘Wow, why is that greeked out? Why is there an asterisk for an N? Why is this the same treatment the n-word has in the black community?’ Hopefully, it starts that conversation and opens the door for trans people to be able to start telling their stories of why the word is hurtful. I know it’s really difficult as a filmmaker to change anything and I really applaud Israel for taking this step.”