Monday, December 07, 2009

AIFF 2009 - Prodigal Sons (Wow!)

I'd more or less decided to go to see Adopt a Sailor after Birthday.  But I hadn't counted on the fact that the filmmakers (director and co-producer/lead actor) were there and would talk about the film using up all the spare time we had to get to Out North. (That's not a complaint, just an explanation why we didn't go to Adopt a Sailor which started at 7:45,  Prodigal Sons didn't start until 8.)  I'll talk about Birthday in the next post.  Right now I'm waiting for the video of their after film discussion to download from the camera. 

But all that is preface to our decision to follow our friend C over to the Alaska Experience Theater to see Prodigal Sons.  When I quickly copied from the description earlier today, I did wonder why it was Prodigal Sons since it was about a daughter returning to her high school reunion in Montana.  I should have read the whole description. 

We were a few minutes late, but it quickly became clear that the daughter, Kim, had left this town as a son, Paul, years earlier and this was her first trip home as Kim.  It took me a while to unravel the other relationships (and since very few of you are likely to ever see the movie, I'll take the liberty to discuss more about the story than I normally would, BUT it does play again on Saturday at 1pm at the Alaska Experience theater and it was a really interesting story.  So, if you think you might go, and you should, stop now, and read this later.) Actually, knowing all this doesn't matter.  It's just the skeleton.  The film itself fills in the flesh. 

So I sit back thinking ok, this is going to be about this transgender woman dealing with the people from her life as a male.  The friends at the reunion seemed to be accepting. (She was the high school football quarterback.)  But, of course, that's just me trying to label it, compartmentalize it, and move on to other things.  It soon becomes clear that there are a lot more identity issues.  Younger brother, Todd, came out in high school, but it seems he still has some issues with the third brother Mark. 

Mark, who was adopted and who had a severe head injury in a car crash at 21, has to deal with the different identities that reside inside his damaged brain, trying to ressurrect the Mark that died in the crash by living in the past when that Mark was still alive, and warding off the newer, violent Mark with meds he hates to take. There are the identity issues from not knowing his birth parents and why he can play the piano beautifully, but can't read a note.  All this on top of normal adult sibling reconciliation challenges.  There's also Mom.  Lucky Dad has already passed away.  No, these are all good people, and Dad's presence may well have helped.   

There's a lot here in this documentary to mess with everyone's ideas of normal and abnormal and to tear holes of doubts in our well constructed stereotypes.  And to raise questions about our own unanswered issues.  Good stuff.  

Kimberly Reed, you made a really outstanding film.  This is one more amazing movie in town because Tony Sheppard and some others decided Anchorage needed a film festival.  People are filling up the venues.  50% full for an 'obscure' documentary on a Monday night is pretty good I'd say.   The Bear Tooth was pretty much full for Birthday and we walked past a long line of folks waiting to see Paddle to Seattle. 

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