“Pronouns,” the new short film written and directed by Michael Paulucci, follows a black transgender teen expressing their feelings of alienation in an emotionally charged slam poetry competition. Sol Patches, a freshman studying drama at Tisch School of the Arts, plays the leading role, providing a dynamic performance that captures the uncertainties and isolation of the trans experience.
Patches is an activist, rapper and gender abolitionist from the south side of Chicago. Their work touches on hot-button issues like class, race, gender and the way they intersect on multiple levels. Like their character, Patches’ preferred pronouns are they, them and their. Their latest album, “AS2 Water Hurricanes,” documents the Black Lives Matter movement from a queer perspective. The album is based on their experience with the Let Us Breathe Collective, a grassroots alliance of artists, journalists and activists that fights injustice in America and overseas.
Patches’ role in this new movie is just the latest in a long series of efforts to advocate for social justice through artistic expression.
WSN had a chance to interview Patches about their role in “Pronouns.”
WSN: What inspired you to take this role?
Sol Patches: It was the fact that me and the character story were so alike — that I did not feel comfortable playing the role, but I felt very empathetic. I felt like I could have a different spin on this role and could really make the part meaningful. It was one of those things where I was still discovering how I understood gender and how I wanted to navigate the spectrum of gender, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew that it could start conversations in other families across the state, and that was something I wanted to be a part of.
WSN: You wrote the poem that was the centerpiece of the film. What was your favorite line from that poem?
SP: “We live in masculine worlds that does not allow for rebirth, but we’ll display queer bodies still dying to exist.”
WSN: So how does this role tie in with your other artistic endeavors like your writing, or your music or your activism?
SP: This role ties into my music and my activism because of the way the film talks about gender and blackness. A lot of the work that I do tries to explore race and gender in a way that is individual, but also collective … It’s about other people who have had similar experiences. I’m just trying to bridge the gap and trying to get people to understand where I’m coming from, and also have a fun time, and have an experience when they see me do art.
WSN: What is the message you are trying to convey through this film?
SP: The film is trying to get families to talk more and to accept their kids and to try to understand that not everybody is a boy and not everybody is a girl, and that there’s a range of things that people can be.
“Pronouns” will screen in over 10 different festivals this fall, including the Tribeca Film Festival and the NewFest, and will eventually be released online for public viewing.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 7 print edition. Email Herman Lee at [email protected]