Coming to HBO and HBO Max tomorrow, Thursday, November 12:
Hot Docs 2020
AFI Docs, Frameline, Atlanta, Bentonville, St Louis
A longitudinal portrait of trans youth in Kansas City.
Filming for five years, beginning in 2014, director Sharon Liese traces the lives of four young people, ranging in ages 4 to 15 at the start of the project, who – at least at some point during the film – identify as transgender. As that qualification suggests, for at least one subject, the youngest, Phoenix, their self-identification and gender expression changes dramatically by the end of the project, though even more surprising is their mother’s radical shift in attitudes. This change justifies the inclusion of Phoenix among the subjects, as prior to this, their relative youth made them the least developed of the protagonists, and also serves to parallel with the disastrous losses for trans rights that came with the 2016 presidential election. Of course, with all of the kids, their families are also central to Liese’s film, balancing loving and supporting their children with navigating societal pressure, and, in some cases, taking a stand for what’s right. But, in contrast to Phoenix, the remaining young subjects are far better able to articulate their experiences, both positive and negative, whether it’s Avery’s growing discomfort in being a preteen activist, Jay’s hesitation to out himself at school, or Leena’s relief at exploring gender reassignment surgery. While the film’s titular reference to BOYHOOD feels a bit of a stretch, its longitudinal approach effectively creates a level of intimacy that, one hopes, will create empathy even among audiences not already predisposed to supporting LGBTQ rights.