SCMS: Queer and Trans Caucus Chris Holmlund Graduate Student Writing Prize

We are thrilled to announce Tory Jeffay (PhD student in Film & Media, UC Berkeley) has been awarded the 2020 SCMS Queer & Trans Caucus Chris Holmlund Graduate Student Writing Prize!

Jeffay’s essay “‘Flat-Out’ Formalism: Strong Island as Trans-of-Color Critique” is now available online and will appear in our Summer 2021 print issue.

Abstract: This essay consider Strong Island, the Oscar-nominated documentary by black, trans filmmaker Yance Ford about the murder of his brother, as a case study that allows us to think through questions of blackness, transness, and visibility within the realm of documentary. The film refuses the forensic model of the juridical documentary, which seeks to uncover hidden truths and remedy particular miscarriages of justice. Instead, through an aesthetic emphasis on flatness that denies the viewer entry into the diegetic world, it forces us to confront more directly, for longer, and through specific eyes the network of causes and consequences of the crime that were never hidden. Analyzing Strong Island’s formal strategies using Tavia Nyong’o’s concept of afro-fabulation and Christina Sharpe’s Black annotation and Black redaction, I argue that the film shapes the conventions of documentary— b-roll, archive, interview—into a new visual grammar that highlights the limitations of visual evidence and mitigates the risks of visibility for Black and trans subjects. Ford rejects the standards of evidence inherent to both the legal system and the documentary, instead fabulating, reaggregating, and producing counter-forensic his evidence so that landscape, family snapshot, and his own body become implicated in his brother’s murder.

Honorable Mentions:

Joshua Bastian Cole (PhD Candidate, Department of Performing and Media Arts, Cornell University)  “Missing Things: The Eerie Allure of Hidden Trans Masculinity in John Carpenter

Rhys Ernst Films”Erin Nunoda (PhD Candidate, Cinema Studies Institute) “On Ephemerality: Tiger Beat and Teenage Time”

The 2021 cycle of the Chris Holmlund Graduate Student Writing Prize has closed. Please check back in mid-2021 for the announcement of the next award cycle. 

Inaugural award recipient

Criteria for submission:

  • Essay must be authored by a graduate student
  • Essay must be in the fields of queer or trans cinema/media studies
  • Essay should be at least 6,500 words in draft form, with potential to meet the journal’s publication requirement of 8,000-10,000 words

Using feedback from the prize committee, the winning graduate student will prepare a full article in line with New Review of Film and Television Studies’ Instructions for Authors, which can be found here

The prize committee will identify a winner and begin the mentoring process by December 1, 2020, with the final essay due to the journal by March 1, 2021.


August 1, 2020 – Put Out the Call for Submissions

November 1, 2020 – All Submissions Due

December 1, 2020 – Winner Selected 

March 1, 2021 – Winner Returns Paper with Any Edits/Changes

The prize committee consists of the editor of New Review of Film and Television Studies, the current senior co-chair of the Queer and Trans Caucus, and the previous senior co-chair of the Queer and Trans Caucus. The prize committee may elect two additional members to address workload and to ensure that a wide spectrum of perspectives are represented, if necessary (either by meeting vote or board decision).

This year, the QTC Board is especially interested in receiving trans cinema/media studies submissions. However, all submissions will be given equal consideration. Graduate student members who are a part of the Alex Doty Queer and Trans Caucus Mentorship Program are encouraged to contact their mentors about potential essay submissions.