Reel Affirmations 2003
Review by Will Doig
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Monday, 10/20/2003, 6:00 PM
Shorts presentation, $0 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
HOPELESSLY PREACHY or inaccessibly Warholian — every year, the poor trans shorts find themselves handicapped in one of these two ways, with sporadic exceptions. Happily, this year is just the opposite.
Take Thorn Grass (), a delicate, sepia-toned tribute to Fred C. Martinez, the transgender Navajo teenager murdered in New Mexico in 2001. Normally, still-life montages laden with ethereal voiceovers turn out to be soapy, emotionally manipulative melodramas with agendas served by turning a dead individual into an martyr. But Thorn Grass is surprisingly moving. It doesn’t deify Martinez. There’s no string-quartet soundtrack to jigger the eye-faucets, and the images of the sparse Southwestern landscapes fit the poignant monologue like a wig.
While Though Isn’t It Obvious? () doesn’t have quite the same grace, it’s got its own merits. The headiest angle of this documentary about Eddie/Gwen Araujo, another murdered transgender teen, is the media orgy that the crime incited, which is captured on the fringes of nearly every frame of this film. To watch the feeding frenzy of network cameramen Thunderdoming their way to the best shot of the victim’s weeping mother is as unsettling as the crime itself, and nearly as lurid. Marshall McLuhan would be proud.
Hermishly Yours () almost surgically deadpans the finer details of growing up as a hermaphrodite in an insulated, rural community that basically decides a child’s sex via town meeting. Sound bytes like “If I didn’t keep my beard, it would be a statement of hopelessness” add to the surreality of an already surreal tale. Aside from seeing the hairs on this woman’s chin, this film would work just as well on radio.
Finally, XX to XY: fighting to be jake () is a compelling, intimate look at one girl’s quest for happiness as a man.