Yance Ford Becomes First Transgender Director of an Oscar-Nominated Film

Yance Ford

Yance Ford has made history.

His documentary, Strong Island, was nominated Tuesday for an Academy Award, making him the first out transgender director of an Oscar-nominated film.

Strong Island is a contender in the Documentary (Feature) category, in which it will compete with Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, and Last Men in Aleppo. 

If Strong Island wins at the Academy Awards, Ford, who is also a producer of the film, would make history again, as he would take home a statuette with fellow producer Joslyn Barnes.

The Advocate named Strong Island, a Netflix production, as one of the best documentaries of 2017, calling it "one of the year's most moving and personal documentaries" and "an important, mesmerizing, necessary production."

In it, Ford turns the lens on his own family, which is still reeling from the death of its eldest child, William Jr., a 24-year-old black teacher who was killed by a 19-year-old white mechanic in 1991. A grand jury refused to indict the killer, delivering an additional blow. Thorough this story, Ford tells a broader tale about systemic racism in America, from the Jim Crow South to the modern-day suburbs of New York City.

Last year, the film won the Special Jury Award for Storytelling at the Sundance Film Festival. It is Ford's first feature-length film.

Ford is not the first transgender Oscar nominee. A transgender musician, Anohni, was nominated for Best Original Song in 2016. The late Angela Morley, a transgender composer, received two nominations, for The Little Prince (1974) and The Slipper and the Rose (1976). And Paige Warner was honored with an award for technical achievement.

This year, A Fantastic Woman also scored a victory for trans representation at the Academy Awards. Nominated in the Foreign Language Film category, the film from director Sebastián Lelio centers on a trans character, Marina, who fights against discrimination in Chile. The part is played by trans actress Daniela Vega, who has received critical acclaim for her performance.

While there are no out nominated actors this year, there are several LGBT roles and productions that were recognized, including Call Me by Your Name and its lead, Timothée Chalamet. Rachel Morrison also made history as the first woman nominated in the Cinematography category.

Watch Strong Island on Netflix, and the trailer below.

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