Reel Affirmations 2005
Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/15/2005, 1:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Goethe Institut Inter Nationes
TOO OFTEN, WELL-intentioned GLBT-themed biographical documentaries focus so exclusively on their subjects that they essentially become hagiographies. While that may be comforting to some audiences eager for validation, it’s not the most challenging or intellectually honest approach.
100% Woman () is a masterful example of how a bio doc can take a definite point of view while still presenting alternate arguments with honesty and respect. Director Karen Duthie outlines the story of Canadian women’s mountain biking competitor Michelle Dumaresq, who was the first transgender woman — and still, we can presume, only — to be allowed to compete in her sport.
Unsurprisingly, not all the women are happy with Dumaresq’s presence, and Duthie unflinchingly allows that viewpoint to be aired without a lot of the documentary tricks other directors use to paint cinematic devil horns on their antagonists. Sure, some of the women don’t know when to stop talking, and eventually hang themselves by their own words. But others, particularly Dumaresq’s estranged friend and fellow-rider Kelli, are obviously struggling with the issues raised by this essential revolution in their sport.
Dumaresq herself comes off as eminently likeable, with a countenance that swings from goofily happy to hang dog down with her moods. Never strident, always open about her experience of life as a man, and resilient enough to respect and understand the differences in opinion she has with those she considers friends, Dumaresq is a compelling subject. Duthie has done a great service to both Dumaresq and the audience, creating an uplifting piece of cinema that achieves its emotional heft by giving full rein to all the emotions of her subjects.
Not quite as successful in its exploration of gay sports and the people who play them is Straight Acting (), Spencer Windes’s personal exploration of the meanings of sports, masculinity, competition and camaraderie. Windes, who was raised as Mormon, didn’t fit in to what he thought of as the ”gay world,” but found a place for himself in the world of gay rugby.
Ostensibly about gay men finding that place of comfort in sports, Straight Acting makes some surface forays into gay rodeo and gay hockey, but Windes’s real interest is rugby, where the focus seems to be as much on beer drinking as on the scrum. No problem there, but what’s lacking is a look at what it means other than that gay men can beat up on each other on a playing field as easily as straight men can, and fire off such winning lines as, ”Rugby isn’t for pussies.” Nice. Maybe next time Windes can test that proposition on the pitch with a lesbian rugby team.