New to DVD this week:
SEAHORSE: THE DAD WHO GAVE BIRTH
Hot Docs, Sheffield, Chicago, Göteborg, St Louis, Bergen, DocPoint, Hot Springs Doc, Rocky Mountain Women’s, Nashville
An intimate portrait of a transgender man’s pregnancy.
Over the course of three years, filmmaker Jeanie Finlay follows Freddy, a gay transgender man, as he makes the decision to stop taking testosterone in order to become pregnant and fulfill his dream of becoming a father. In this way, he will be like the titular marine life, in which the male of the species gives birth. While Freddy sees pregnancy as a pragmatic decision – using his biology to achieve a goal that otherwise might be hard to achieve – it has unexpected consequences, for himself and others around him. As his body begins to change, Freddy confronts complex questions around gender, maleness, parenthood, and identity. Finlay takes an appropriately delicate, though sometimes too leisurely, approach, but it yields affecting results. That said, the film’s subtitle is off-putting. A recent addition, it helps set the viewer’s expectations more clearly than the original more poetic, standalone title, but it also lends the doc an unfortunate air of tabloid sensationalism that thankfully does not actually materialize within it. Beyond that, the subtitle’s use of “the dad” suggests that McConnell is the sole trans man who has decided to become pregnant, and that’s far from the case – this isn’t even the only documentary about the subject. While this might seem like a minor quibble, the subtitle – likely a fairly innocent marketing decision – unintentionally serves to further other McConnell, even if Finlay’s film itself is clearly sympathetic and supportive.