Alexia Kosmider, Ph.D: Director, Senior Lecturer at RISD & Executive Director of Shifting Visions Films Education Project Inc

My NativeAdVert:

Alexia Kosmider, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer in RISD’s literary arts department. She also is the Executive Director of Shifting Visions Films Education Project Inc., a non- profit film company dedicated to examining subjects that are often neglected by larger film companies.  She produced and co-directed: Not on My Campus, Rhode Island Council of the Humanities and R. I. Here at Home: What Divides Us, What Unites Us, PBS Series broadcast R. I. PBS June 2007, a short film that examines the controversy surrounding Providence College’s banning of the Vagina Monologues.  Alexia has co-directed and produced several other documentaries, including Not Your Mama’s Roller Derby (2009), and Sappho’s Fire (2014).

She was awarded a Fulbright Travel Grant (June, 2014) that allowed her to show Sappho’s Fire in seven cities in Poland, including Wroclaw and Warsaw. Alexia’s recent documentary, TransJourney, premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (2014) and screened at Wicked Queer, Boston’s LGBT Film Festival (2015) and Translations, Seattle’s Transgender Film Festival (2015).  In addition, TransJourney was awarded an Audience Award at the Palm Springs LGBT Film Festival (2015).

My NativeAdVantage:

What do you do best?

I Iisten to other creative people and don’t hesitate to try new paths of discovery. I ’m also a risk taker and a con woman of sorts, only in the good sense of believing that students can make that jump in their critical thinking to write a thoughtful paper or making certain that a film arrives at the film festival on time.

What makes me the Best?

I would not say that I am the best, as  “best” is such a transitory state. I feel  that I have accomplished a great feat after making a film, or teaching a course at RISD, but there’s always room for growth and improvement. That’s the way in which I approach my next course or my next film: the potential to capture the best at one moment in time.

What are my aspirations?

Last fall, I worked with another writer, Marianne Messina, on drafting a screenplay called Finding Grace, a romantic comedy about an older lesbian who plunges reluctantly, and rather naively into the online dating scene only to find herself entangled with a vindictive ex who creates havoc on her world, exasperating her love interest with in an attractive transgender woman. I would like to produce and direct the screenplay and premiere it at Boston’s Wicked Queer Film Festival.

Biggest Success?

Three years ago I received an email from Professor Dominika Ferens who teaches in the English Institute at Wroclaw University, Poland.  Professor Ferens mentioned that after Russia, Poland has the dubious distinction of being the least supportive country towards its LGBT community members as compared to other European countries. Immediately I became hooked on the idea that I would travel to Poland to screen my recent documentary, Sappho’s Fire, which features the stories of 10 New England older lesbians. I applied for a Fulbright Travel Grant and I took Sappho’s Fire on a seven-city tour, traveling to art museums, university classes, and even to people’s private homes to screen Sappho’s Fire. After these screenings, I met Polish anarchists, one of the founders of Warsaw’s Pride celebrations, ardent students, and university professors who were working in their own manner to shatter the debilitating stereotypes that surround LGBTQ individuals in their country. I have never been so moved, and felt so much a part of a global community, as during my visit in Poland.

Most Challenging Moment?

Four years ago my partner, Debbie Monuteaux, and I had begun production on TransJourney. We had just completed a successful Kickstarter fund raising event and had been awarded a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation when Debbie became very ill with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC). After a long stint with her illness, she passed away. I was simply devastated. Everything stopped, including the production of the film. A year or so after her passing, I started to think that we should complete the documentary, as transgender issues were certainly not being addressed.  With the help of Debbie’s cousin, Sandra Richard, we raised more funds.  Another friend and filmmaker, Blue Wade came on board to co-direct, and we completed the documentary. Art can be intensely healing.

Favorite Motto?

“You don't have anything if you don't have the stories.” --Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony.  Like Silko, who cautions against stories slipping away in her own Laguna culture, women’s stories and LGBT stories are some of the unspoken stories of our own culture.

Favorite People?

Leslie Marmon Silko, Barbara Kopple, Deepa Mehta, Louise Erdrich, Junot Diaz—they are all extraordinary storytellers.

Favorite Places?

Wroclaw, Gydansk, Prague, Santa Fe, Provincetown, Jelenia Gora.

Favorite Products?

Bungee cords, electric tape, hemp hand cream, Canon cameras, food that is made/produced locally.

Current Passions?

Recently I have become a kind of family archeologist as I am reading old travel journals, letters and sorting through old photographs. I am digging deep into my family’s past in order to make a very personal documentary about my grandmother, Dorothy Harrison, who lived with her partner, Marty Emch, a former captain in the Naval Reserves. Dorothy and Marty met after the war and lived together for over thirty-five years in Toledo, Ohio. Every summer they said goodbye to our family and headed west seeking a new adventure, as their passion was Airstream traveling. I am writing a film treatment about an early camping trip that I took as a young girl with my grandmother and Marty traveling from Toledo, Ohio to Nederland, Colorado.