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New Gwen Haworth film pays tribute to trans poet Antonette Rea

Filmmaker soon to be honoured with Remarkable Women award

Downtown Eastside poet Antonette Rea, featured in Gwen Haworth’s new documentary short A Woman with a Past, is recovering from serious injuries after being hit by a car on Feb 25. Credit: Courtesy of Gwen Haworth

“You can never have too much lube.”

So begins Gwen Haworth’s new documentary short, A Woman with a Past, which offers a glimpse into the life of Antonette Rea, a delightful transgender, intersex poet and activist living in the Downtown Eastside.

It has been seven years since Haworth’s feature film She’s a Boy I Knew won dozens of awards at film festivals all over the globe. Since then, Haworth has kept very busy both with the Raincity Housing and Support Society and her movie projects.

“Antonette’s poetry is real and raw in a way I could only dream of replicating in my video work,” Haworth says. “I also can’t help but love Antonette’s welcoming, cheery, understated and sometimes self-effacing disposition. Even as an artist with more lived experience than many of us, she has absolutely no attitude and has a general love for people. She’s one of our unsung heroes.”

As Rea shares her life and recites her poetry, Haworth follows her on a tour through “low track,” an area of the Downtown Eastside where Rea used to work in the sex trade.

“If there’s a fire alarm going, what do I do? I’d grab my poetry,” Rea says. “That’s the most valuable thing. That is my soul, that was my heart. That was the most important thing.”

The 10-minute film premiered in February at Berlin’s International Film Festival. But the month ended in pain, as Rea suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car on Feb 25.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Haworth says. “Antonette is recovering from multiple serious injuries. As someone living off limited means, her recovery will likely be further complicated by lack of resources. I can’t help but feel she’s one of our remaining queer and trans community elders from our streets who has remained relatively unacknowledged. This is an opportunity where we can show her our love and appreciation.”

Haworth encourages people to go to Rea’s online fundraising campaign to donate what they can.

Meanwhile, Haworth will be honoured as one of Vancouver’s 12 Remarkable Women this year at a ceremony to take place on March 8 for International Women’s Day.

Haworth is simultaneously shy and moved when the award is mentioned. “The acknowledgement is humbling,” she says. “I could never make these films without ongoing input from communities and those who came before us. I may be on the [Remarkable Women] poster, but to me, this feels like open recognition to all the incredible work queer and trans people in our local communities have been doing over the years.”