Atlas O Phoenix
-Cesar A. Cruz
Atlas O Phoenix, they/them/theirs, is an award-winning director, writer, producer, and editor who creates films that are personal, powerful, and uninhibited. Additionally, they were an actor and performer for the legendary Dykes Do Drag (2017-2020) and The Naked I series (2018/2020). They are also the cohost of the trans and nonbinary talk show and podcast, Genderful, with Gender Meowster. The show is available on YouTube and anywhere you listen to podcasts.
I want you to deduce for yourself.
I trust your emotional intelligence.
-Atlas O Phoenix
My films and artistic vision deliberately create something inconvenient and show the truth in its varying shades and textures.
I encourage viewers to move past their comfort zone to discover themselves in new ways. I aim to shift their worldviews, attitudes, and self-perceptions. If my art makes viewers uncomfortable, it’s working. There's infinite power in vulnerability.
A compliment I received that both troubled and relieved me was from a father who watched my film, Do I Qualify for Love? at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Deeply heartbroken, he said, “I’m not the same person after seeing your film. Everything I thought I knew about parenting completely shifted. I’m so sorry for what happened to you.”
He couldn't stand still as he spoke to me and struggled to make eye contact. He moved his arms, back, and hips. He walked towards me and moved back to collect more thoughts and moved forward again. It was like watching him wrestle with his spirit. For a moment, I felt bad for him; I had shown him something so awful he was struggling to reconcile it within himself.
Upon reflection, I see it as a teaching moment for both of us. I learned how powerfully my work can impact others. It summoned the truth he held to be true and replaced it with something tangible and visceral. I gave him a vision that made him challenge his views, his attitude, and the way he saw himself as a parent.
It was one of the most significant moments of my budding career. I’ll see more of this, in the future, with my experimental documentary, Beautiful Boi.
At this point in my filmmaking journey, I want to create films that explore the darkness of the soul and examine its flight to the light.
2STLGBQINPPA+ filmmakers are an enormous inspiration to me because these stories are about overcoming obscene social obstacles based on sexual orientation and gender expression. This includes a radical bias towards the color of one's skin.
Vigilance in regards to rejecting tropes, cliches, and tokenism is necessary so that 2STLGBQINPPA+ cinema will continue to evolve into a powerful and inspiring force for good in the world. This planet needs all the good it can get.
**Curious about the acronym?
I changed the acronym for myself. I will be releasing an essay for the Walker Art Center soon that describes why I felt the need to change it.
2S - Two-Spirit (to honor the stolen land we celebrate Pride on)
T - Trans (Marsha P Johnson and Silvia Rivera - trans women of color who stood up for all of us at Stonewall Inn 50 years ago.)
L - Lesbian(Storme De Larvarie who also stood up for us at Stonewall Inn)
G - Gay
B - Bi
Q - Queer
I - Intersex
N - Nonbinary
P - Pansexual
P - Polyamorous
+ - There's more of us
Photo Credit: Evan Frost/MPR News
The Cinema I Create
All works are written, produced, directed, and edited by Atlas O Phoenix.
(Available with Patron Plan)
Emotional, provocative, and deeply introspective work, Atlas is interested in the light and dark areas of life and its lived experience. The questions explored are:
"What makes up our human experience?"
"What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind?"
Do I Qualify for Love? was featured at the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival's Best of the Fest along with Questlove's Summer of Love. Do I qualify for Love? was also nominated for Best Short Documentary at this festival.
Little Men has won numerous awards. It was an official selection in places as far as Bucharest, London, and stateside in numerous festivals including the Seattle Black Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, and the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival in 2020.
Their newest film project is an experimental documentary, Beautiful Boi. The film is an anthropological study of their life, transition, and mental health journey of 40+ years.
They are currently shooting footage and writing monologues for the film. Beautiful Boi is set to premiere in 2025.
To support the making of Beautiful Boi and upcoming projects please go to the Membership Space. For a monthly fee of $12, you will have full access to my work. Thank you so much!
For your donation, you will receive a Special Thanks screen credit. Thank you!
Awards and Recognition
I was nominated in 2020 for 6 awards at the Black Continental Independent Movie Awards for my second short narrative film in 19 years, Little Men. I received an Honorable Mention trophy from this festival. It received another Honorable Mention from Deep Focus Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY, in 2021.
Little Men won several awards and was nominated at different film festivals around the world. It was an official selection for the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival, also in Bucharest, London and Rapport, England, Seattle, and Gary, Indiana, along with others. It won an Award of Recognition at IndieFest in La Jolla, California. Additionally, it won two REMI awards (Silver and Platinum) for the screenplay and film at the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival in 2018/2020.
My third short film, Do I Qualify for Love? was created in 2020. This experimental documentary was also screened at the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival where it was included in Best of the Fest and competed for Best Short Documentary in 2021. It screened in London and Birmingham, England, North Carolina, DC, and Gary, Indiana. It was my second time at the Gary festival for the second year in a row.
I’ve won grants from the Jerome Foundation, MN State Arts Board, and VSA MN for my films and screenplays since 1999. I received an Honorarium from the prestigious Sundance Institute when applying for a grant in 2021. They are tracking Beautiful Boi and asked me to keep them updated and to apply again.
I’ve been commissioned to write 5 essays for the Walker Art Center’s MN Artists about the process and progress of my new film, Beautiful Boi. Two of them were published in November 2021.