The 29th annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (#aGLIFF) kicked off at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar last night with a marquee opening film that, as always, set the tone for the high standards that we’ve come to expect from Austin’s foremost queer cinema organization.
‘Real Boy’ is a feature-length documentary that hopes to express and celebrate the challenges faced by transgender youth. The focus is on the extraordinarily affable Bennett Wallace (formerly Rachel), a young transgender man that is just beginning to take ownership of his life. He is struggling to put behind the self-loathing of teen age, reaching out to peers, and beginning the process of changing his body to better suit the reality that his family still questions. The film leans very heavily on his mother and her antiquated views on social etiquette and conservative normality. Other subjects include Bennett’s roommate, Dylan, who is starting the same medical journey but with the support and backing of his family, along with the talented musician, Joe Stevens, who acts as both a mentor and cautionary figure for Bennett. All of the subjects are treated with care and the director, Shaleece Haas, has managed to give genuine depth and empathy to even the most intolerant of individuals.
There are profound ideas within this film that go almost entirely unvoiced even in our modern America. The subject completely transcends the general perception of ‘coming out’, explaining that it’s not a solution or resolution, it is just one in a long line of self-actualizing steps. I think, in the gay community, we forget that it is not just those that are transitioning their bodies but that we are all a constant work in progress.
There is an ambition on the part of the filmmakers to workshop this documentary as an educational tool for out-youth centers and I encourage you to get involved through their website www.realboymovie.com. I don’t think there was a person in that audience that didn’t want to know more and wasn’t chomping at the bit to share this film with friends and family. PBS will be broadcasting an abridged version in 2017 (www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/real-boy/) but I highly recommend catching one of the many upcoming screenings scheduled across the country and across the Atlantic through November. ‘Real Boy’ isn’t just inspirational and emotional, it’s fun and uplifting and important.
Avid film geek with an art-house leaning but a love for all things cinema, David graduated from the American International University of London with a degree in film production and has spent the last 10 years ‘chasing the cinema dragon’ through the United Kingdom and Los Angeles working as a field producer and writer. He now resides in Austin, Texas where he is a constant presence at the Alamo Drafthouse, a regular contributor to media blogs, and has assisted in the programming of the South by Southwest Film Festival since 2012.