Sundance 2020: Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen

Laverne Cox appears in Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute,.

Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen takes a deep dive into cinematic and television history in order to start a conversation about transgender lives.

According to GLAAD, 80 percent of Americans have never met a transgender person.  Here’s to hoping that Disclosure changes this statistic because this documentary is the film that we’ve all been waiting for.  It’s a film that puts transgender lives on screen in a new perspective.  There’s a lot to take in with a 105-minute running time yet there’s so much necessary dialogue.

Nick Adams, the Director of Transgender Media & Representation at GLAAD, says that Hollywood has taught audiences how to react to transgender people.  The reactions are not so pleasant.  In fact, it only makes you want to cry.  Case in point: the only point of reference was Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs) when Jen Richards came out to a friend.  Do we really want mainstream audiences thinking about a psychopath when it comes to transgender people?  I think not!

Moreover, The Crying Game started a rippling effect when a character puked upon learning someone was transgender.  More films and TV series would follow in suit.  One such film was Ace Venture: Pet Detective and the film took the idea way too far.

Laverne Cox, an executive producer on the film, discusses the emasculation of Black men on screen.  There’s a history of Black male comedians dressing in drag as a right of passage.  All one needs to do is take a look at Saturday Night Live.  Anyway, the actress says that the images are so disparaging for all women.

Former Survivor contestant Zeke Smith’s favorite film growing up was Ace Venture: Pet Detective.  It’s a film that he would come to find transphobic and homophobic some time after coming out.  And yet, this film is still a favorite for many people.

As Jen Richards reminds the audience, the use of cisgender men in transgender roles only leads to violence.  This can’t be said enough.  There’s a reason why so many of us roll our eyes when a cisgender man gets cast as a transgender woman.  It’s wrong because of the harm that comes with it.

Legendary filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and the racist D.W. Griffith put an early mark on transgender depictions on screen.  Documentary filmmaker Yance Ford shares an interesting anecdote about not going to film school.  Had he gone to film school, the moment that blackface appeared on screen was the very moment he would have dropped out.

There’s still room for improvement.  For one, there ought to be a better depiction of trans-masculine characters on screen.

Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen is the most important documentary of the year.

DIRECTOR:  Sam Feder
FEATURING:  Nick Adams, Tre’vell Anderson, Ser Anzoategui, Alexandra Billings, Chaz Bono, Sandra Caldwell, Candis Cayne, Jamie Clayton, Michael D. Cohen, Laverne Cox, Zachary Drucker, Elliott Fletcher, Yance Ford, Alexandra Grey, Jazzmun, Bianca Leigh, Tracy Lysette, Mickey R. Mahoney, Tiq Milan, Jen Richards, Mj Rodriguez, Angelica Ross, Hailie Sahar, Leo Sheng, Brian Michael Smith, Zeke Smith, Chase Strangio, Susan Stryker, Rain Valdez, Marquise Vilsón, Lilly Wachowski

Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres program. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.