Paul Frankl, Roxanne: Best LGBTQ Short Film at the Queens World Film Festival

The latest short film from writer and director Paul Frankl, whose music video for Mt Wolf made the official selection for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF), tells the story of a transgendered sex worker and the bond she develops with an abandoned girl. Roxanne has won the Best LGBTQ Short Film title at the Queens World Film Festival and also made the official selection for several international film festivals.

Shot in Soho on 35mm film, it was driven by the director’s desire to present trans characters in film who were not simply defined by their being trans, echoing a running ethical theme in Frankl’s work of raising the profile of marginalised groups.

He deliberately set out to cast a trans actor in the lead, settling on Miss Cairo in the role of Roxanne, who develops a relationship with 12-year-old Lily after she is abandoned by her mother. Miss Cairo, whose stage name comes from her Egyptian heritage, trained in physical theatre and performs as a drag queen on the club and burlesque scene as well as being a performance artist and a costume and wig designer.

The film explores themes not only of the fluidity of gender identity, but also of friendship and acceptance. The 35mm film highlights the contrast of night and day – the two different worlds Roxanne inhabits, the night, where she picks up clients in clubs, and the day where she projects an image of isolation and calm control. It also comes to reflect the duality between Roxanne’s tough, cold outer persona and her growing feelings for the child.

Frankl found the project was turned down by major funding bodies, but, having previously been a winner of the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series competition, which funded a previous project, he approached alcohol brands for backing, ultimately securing two-thirds of his budget from Absolut Vodka and raising the rest via Kickstarter. Absolut has been involved in the art world since 1985 when it commissioned Andy Warhol to create an advert, and has since funded hundreds of creative projects around the world.

Frankl received a first class degree from Queen Mary, University of London in Comparative Literature and Film Studies, as well as the university’s award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, and has since led a Guardian Masterclass on film funding, been a mentor on the National Theatre’s short filmmaking competition for Tori Amos’s The Light Princess, and taken part in the BFI London Film Festival’s Think, Shoot, Distribute talent lab, as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2013.

Roxanne (14 mins) can be viewed now at

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1. Film still of Roxanne, directed by Paul Frankl. Courtesy Paul Frankl.