Athena, BFI Flare, Oxford, Kansas City
A profile of a pioneering Black transwoman.
Growing up Black and gender nonconforming on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s, Gloria Allen suffered dearly in her early years, facing brutal violence and rape in high school. Despite this, she found support and acceptance from her mother and grandmother, as well as from the vibrant community of the city’s drag ball culture, and professional fulfillment as a nurse. In more recent years, recognizing her relative good fortune and the serious challenges faced by her trans sisters, Allen began offering charm school classes for young homeless trans women, passing on the lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother to instill self-confidence and pride. As an older trans woman of color, Allen is a notably worthwhile subject for a portrait, but one wishes the film were stronger as a whole. Feeling at times like a filmed oral history, Luchina Fisher’s doc lacks polish and visual interest, and is buoyed primarily by Allen’s positivity and charm.