NEW ORLEANS – “CANS Can’t Stand,” a documentary following the grassroots movement of trans women in New Orleans to repeal Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law, has been selected as a finalist for The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes Film Festival. It screened at the festival on May 24.
Produced and co-directed by filmmaker Matt Nadel, along with co-director Megan Plotka and co-producer Wendi Cooper, the film explores the impact of the controversial 40-year-old law that made it a felony to solicit “unnatural carnal copulation for compensation,” disproportionately affecting queer and trans survival sex workers. It focuses on Cooper, who serves as executive director of TRANScending Women, Milan Nicole Sherry, House of Tulip co-director, and other trans activists.
CANScantSTAND was founded as a program within Operation Restoration to advocate for repeal of the law that disproportionately targets the LGBTQ+ community and particularly trans women of color. While it basically duplicated the state’s anti-prostitution law, CANS made offenses punishable by five years in prison and ten years to life as a registered sex offender while prostitution is a misdemeanor offense.
“To have this film at Cannes and for people from around the world to have the chance to view it is amazing,” says Syrita Steib, executive director of Operation Restoration. “For 40 years, hundreds of Louisianians were needlessly targeted as felons. We’ve won some victories, but our goal is to achieve full trans liberation in this state.”
The 18:42 minute film was one of 10 in the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase that focuses on LGBTQ+ topics.
“Megan and I were working at the New Orleans Video Access Center when we heard about Wendi and her work with CANScantSTAND to get the law taken off the books,” says Nadel, a documentary filmmaker and journalist now living in New York City. “We met with her at Operation Restoration, where she worked at the time, and were floored by her story. It needed to be a film of its own.”
“That was in August 2019. Since then, we’ve been slowly capturing footage, conducting interviews, doing archival research and editing. We are thrilled that the world finally gets to see this film,” Nadel adds.