Based on the essay “It’s Not Confidential I’ve Got Potential” by Eugenides Hermes, April A. Wilson’s short film “Jo” slips into the shoes of the title character, portraying the nuances of Jo’s emotional (and then physical) discomfort, with the same kind of creative dedication praised by Dr. King.

According to the filmmaker, an adaptation assignment for a graduate screenwriting class set the project’s first spark. She decided to convert “It’s Not Confidential” — part of David Levithan’s anthology The Full Spectrum — into a short film. “I’m interested in creating work that explores the theme of self-identity and how identity influences our life and choices,” she explains. “So it was a natural marriage between the essay and the themes I want to explore in my films.”

April A. WIlson, Director "Jo"

April A. WIlson, Director “Jo”

Cinema about social issues can sometimes tread a tightrope between heavy-handedness and self-censorship — but “Jo” plays it subtle. Nobody has to remark upon Jo’s dark skin; no one asks outright about gender. But the narrative doesn’t gloss over its protagonist’s struggles either. The side-eye from the nurse, the fight-or-flight body language of the white mother in the waiting room and the frosty inflections of Jo’s physician fill in much of the backstory.

Just in case you missed it, though: this short follows a young black transman into the doctor’s office for a pap smear.

“While I’m not trans, I am someone who grew up as a tomboy,” says April A. Wilson, “and have struggled with how I view myself, how others view me and how that outside perception changed me.”

Her hope was — and still is — that “Jo” will inspire viewers to empathize with the title character and to reflect upon their own stereotypes and prejudices. That’s where Project Catalyst and the AfroBytes series came in.

“I chose to exhibit ‘Jo’ thorough Project Catalyst because I think the film has a point of view not often explored,” says Wilson. “I really wanted the film and its message to live on outside of its film festival run and ultimately reach a larger audience.”

“Jo” is part of AfroBytes, Black Public Media’s curated web series with exclusive shorts from Artel Great’s Project Catalyst. Until January 31, you can watch all four AfroBytes films free right here!