Director Biography – Elina Gress, Lenee Son (MY NAME WAS JANUARY)

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Photo: Lenee Son (left) and Elina Gress (right)


Lenée is a Khmer Krom settler who grew up in Surrey on unceded Kwantlen, Katzie, Semiahmoo, and Kwikwetlem territories. She has a Bachelors of Journalism and minor in Sociology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Her work as a freelance multimedia journalist has appeared in publications such as, Multimedia Photojournale, The Volcano, Westcoast Food, and Inside Vancouver. When she’s not working on multimedia projects, Lenee is committed to anti-poverty community organizing in Surrey and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

She/Her pronouns.


Elina is a freelance multimedia journalist, primarily photojournalist, in the search for a greater understanding of our world. She has a deep interest in the complexities of the human population. Telling people’s stories from their perspective and not her own. Telling stories that can change people’s hearts and minds through photography and documentary. That said, Elina has a passion for wildlife conservation and preservation; not to mention the determination to protecting our one and only home. Earth.


Director Statement


ELINA – I didn’t know January and I never heard about her murder. This made me cringe. Why was January murdered? Why did I not hear of this? Why was her murder not covered as strongly as other news items? These are all concerns I had when Lenée and I were approached to do this film. This is why I am doing this. January was a person; a human being. Her life was just as valuable as yours and mine. The purpose of this film is not to generate fame or profit, but to educate our population about transgender rights and lives. There is no ‘script’. Just real people. This film is a platform for trans* women of colour to share their voices in a safe environment. The lives of trans* women of colour are important and that’s something I want to make clear in this film. This is for January.

LENEE – Her name was January. She was loved by her friends and family. She was fearless and compassionate. When I interviewed people who knew her, they described her as a “bright light” whose energy and personality radiated in a crowded room. At just 26 years old, she was lost too soon. I wanted to tell January’s story because I was saddened to learn of the loss of another transgender woman at the hands of gender violence. Trans women are being murdered at an unprecedented rate. For racialized trans girls living in poverty like January, transphobic violence is also inherently connected to race, gender, and class. As an immigrant from the Philippines, a sex worker, and trans girl, January navigated through these multiple structures of oppression. My Name Was January is a memorial of January’s life and light. It is a call for justice for January and for all our sisters who have lost their lives to transmisogyny. It is a refusal to lose another sister to gender violence.

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