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Transgender lives celebrated through film screening

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The University of La Verne hosted a Transgender Remembrance Day virtual event Wednesday, to honor the trans lives lost this year. The event featured photographer and filmmaker Henry Horenstein who screened his film “Blitto Underground” before 35 La Verne community members who attended via Zoom.

Shannon Benine, associate professor of photography and director of the Irene Carlson Gallery, introduced Horenstein, a still photographer of nearly 40 years and filmographer of marginalized communities.

The film centered on a young queer man named Pablo Blitto, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Blitto took the crew around the figurative underground world of the city, where the queer community flourished and self expression was encouraged.

Horenstein said that his life’s mantra was to do what you love, have fun with it, and try to learn something from the things that you do. He has a background in history, which he majored in in college. He said he considers himself a historian, “just with a camera.”

“It’s important to take a step back, listen to people and accept them for who they are, without judgment,” Horenstein said.

The film began in a bar where people danced across the stage and the crowd was lively with the swelling music around them. Blitto was first introduced on the side of the road, still in his makeup and costume from the previous show, where he playfully flirted with a truck driver.

“They don’t know whether they want to hit me or kiss me,” Blitto said.

The video flashed with black and white stills of queer people who were introduced throughout the film, friends of Blitto and prominent parts of the underground community.

A friend of Blitto interviewed in the film said that they all had the same universe in their minds. He added that Blitto was a legend and was known for his expressiveness.

The film shifted to Blitto at his farm, where he explained that the animals all had a voice, we as humans just did not listen to them. He shared his personal connection to animals and said that he was vegan and it was the least he could do for them.

He shared his thoughts on school and how he disagreed with institutions in general, that they all wanted to make people the same and were suppressive. He based his punk identity on the rebellion against them.

“It’s not Hollywood, but that’s how it was intended to be,” Horenstein said after the film ended.

Horenstein said he met Blitto through a mutual friend while working on a different film.

At the time Blitto was a hotel concierge. Horenstein described him as charismatic with so many connections with the people in the city.

Nearly a year prior to filming him, Horenstein met with him for 10 days when he was able to discover the underground world with Blitto.

After showing him the film, Horenstein said that Blitto was “over the moon with it.”

Benine said she hoped that the presentation was more than a Trans Remembrance Day event, but also a way to start a dialogue.

To view “Blitto Underground” and more of Horenstein’s work, visit henryhorenstein.com.

—Lindsey Pacela

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