Last week, for the first time since her debut in Cannes, first-time writer-director Danielle Lessovitz presented her Port Authority film in Milan. The plot, originally set in Harlem’s fierce LGBT scene, speaks of a coincidental love story between a black trans woman named Wye (played by actress Leyna Bloom) and caucasian, cisgendered misfit named Paul (played by actor Fionn Whitehead).
Port Authority Overview
Paul, a young heterosexual from the town of Pittsburgh, arrives at the Port Authority bus station where he expects to meet his sister Sara (Louisa Krause). Upon his arrival, he ends the futile search for Sara who is a no-show and decides to be on his way. Upon departing on his journey to seek refuge within the city, he stumbles across two crews. The first of which he encounters on the steps of the bus station: a queer clique of eight radiant characters of color including his soon-to-be heart throb, Wye, who seems to immediately catch his eye. Though brief, this moment establishes his fascination with the group, all expressed through his fixed gaze.
Further throughout the night, while in transit on the underground, Paul finds friendship when he gets involved in a physical altercation with two drunk guys where he’s then rescued by a street smart lad named Lee (played by McCaul Lombardi). While Lee has business in doing shady eviction work for local landlords, his home is also one of the local homeless shelters. Paul is soon introduced to this shelter, which hosts the likes of Lee’s homophobic squad as well as queer people of color like Tekay, (played by Devon Carpenter) who is one of the characters he recognizes from the crew outside the station. One evening while on his way in, Paul comes across Tekay in practice for one of his ballroom dance routines. Mesmerized by his talent, Paul trails him in curiosity of where he escapes to each night. Here he is met by a whole new world of queer misfits of color who all meet for vibing and voguing sessions.
He’s further drawn to the site when he notices one of its members includes Wye. In attempt for an opportunity to be noticed by her, Paul takes a seat where he’s then assured by Wye’s brother of the safe space for people of color only. Upon his departure, Wye meets him outside to apologize on behalf of her brother, which marks the beginning of their complicated love story. Not long after, Paul is shocked to find out that Wye is actually trans and accuses her of deceiving him, which is when the core conflict is introduced. Although Paul eventually overlooks the fact of Wye being trans for the sake of the feelings they had developed for each other, he is in constant conflict with the acceptance of her gender status. As he becomes very cautious about keeping his interactions with Wye and his interactions with his homophobic friends very separately which eventually develops into conflict with Wye.
Port Authority Analysis
The film is one that speaks to many different issues, from heterosexual tolerance, to the advantages of cis-seeming trans-women, and the concept of safe spaces for people of color. Yet while it speaks to so many things, it only happens to touch the surface. Each mini-storyline doesn’t completely develop; the confrontation of Paul’s homophobic friends doesn’t entirely erupt, Wye’s privilege as a cis-seeming trans woman is never fully acknowledged and Paul’s relationship with Wye’s queer crew isn’t explained to be acceptance or just tolerance. However for some reason, this proved to actually be the film’s strong point. Setting the blueprint and opening conversation around issues that matter from an objective point of view without being too opinionated. Leaving the viewer with the opportunity to analyze on his own from the facts presented. The film’s ending is abrupt, and a bit unresolved, but builds up enough suspense within the storyline for a part two. Here’s to hoping it’s already in the making.