With the Film Festival launching on March 26, it will offer two more films virtually at home. Included are “See You Then,” about the conversation between transgender Kris and her former girlfriend Naomi, and “Try Harder!” about the challenges involved in applying to students’ dream colleges.
‘See You Then’
Directed by Mari Walker, “See You Then” is a compelling fictional film that narrates what happens when Kris (Iranian trans actress Pooya Mohseni) meets up with the girlfriend she had before she transitioned. At first, Asian American Naomi (Lynn Chen) chats comfortably with Kris, whom she hasn’t seen in decades. Naomi describes having a husband and two small children, but complains about her frustration at not having time for her performance art.
As Kris describes what it was like, “The need to transition was ringing in my head,” Naomi grows more and more uncomfortable. “You should have told me what was going on,” she says. After being in a relationship with Kris for three years, Naomi felt devastated, left as she was even with Kris’s clothes. “It really hurt me.” She found out about Kris’s transitioning from another woman, not Kris.
“I was very ashamed,” Kris says. “I hope you can forgive me.”
Naomi describes her last, sexually explicit art performance. “It took a huge emotional toll on me,” she says. Kris has just gotten out of a one-and-a-half-year relationship, the first after 13 years alone. She has found being a woman hard. The conversation escalates once Naomi makes a disturbing confession. The dialogue between these two women makes an important contribution to understanding how trans women feel about their lives, as well as the women they have left behind.
Lowell, a top San Francisco high school, is the setting for the documentary directed by Debbie Lum, “Try Harder!” It’s an account of what seniors there go through as they apply to colleges. The film may be less absorbing than “See You Then,” but it is just as important to parents with high school–age children anticipating college. Lowell is a place where the cool kids are nerds and the school orchestra is top-notch.
One student describes the library as packed, and the computer lab as also busy. The competition among students, the majority of whom are Asian American, is intense, with Stanford providing a one-in-five chance of Lowell students getting in. Everything students do should be to get into the best college they can. “I don’t have what it takes,” confesses one high schooler.
Rachael’s mom, Donna, tells her daughter rejection is part of growing up, but Rachael still gets into UC Davis. She has internalized the stereotype that she got in because she’s black. Another teen is on his own, seeing his dad, who doesn’t have a job, every three or four days.
Alvan, with an ethnic Chinese background, has an interview on the Chinese New Year with Brown College that lasts almost two hours, and he decides Brown is a pretty good fit. So it continues, with each student explaining how they prepare for college and go through the application process.
“Try Harder!” finishes by watching one student react with joy when he gets into Stanford. Then it observes Alvan arriving at his college. The film illustrates how class, race, and opportunity play into the process of preparing, applying, and getting into college.
Information and tickets are available on a pay-what-you-can basis at tmvff.org from March 25 to 28.