Being transgender is currently more out in the open, largely due to television. There are shows such as Sense 8 on Netflix, Transparent on Amazon, ABC Family’s Becoming Us, and Caitlyn Jenner’s upcoming reality show, I Am Cait. Each of these endeavors has opened a window, allowing the world to understand a small part of the transgender experience through television. As part of the production of the movie, Deep Run, Susan Sarandon is using fundraising website Represent to raise the money necessary to demonstrate that the film industry can be more involved in the transgender experience.
The film industry, however, is still an uncharted territory when it comes to helping the world to understand what being transgender means, or even what the LGBTQ community has to offer a more tolerant world. During the week of July 19, the Outfest Film Festival worked to change perspectives and was referred to as “the new frontier of transgender films” by Lucy Mukerjee-Brown, the LGBTQ programming director of the festival.
Outfest is about more than exploring and understanding the struggle of the transitional experience. These films represent transgender leaders in their families, their communities, and their churches. These are real people who are living their lives. This is truly a step forward, says Mukerjee-Brown.
From Thursday, July 16, through Sunday, July 19, the film festival premiered 166 films from 33 countries. Of those films, 15 percent focused on or included transgender actors. These films were about regular people who are transgender and their struggles, as well as their triumphs.
One of the films that premiered at the Outfest Film Festival was Deep Run. This is a documentary which focuses on a transgender male – 17-year-old Cole Rae Davis, who was born a girl named Spazz. Spazz wants to be Cole, but lives in conservative North Carolina where being transgender is not well accepted. Spazz wants to live her life as a man, but her family is not supportive and neither is a prior love interest. At 17 years old, and without any support, Spazz falls in love again and is able to find the courage within himself to become Cole, while still maintaining his Christian beliefs.
Cole is an Evangelical transgender teenager coming into his own as a man; mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Cole becomes a strong-willed trans man with a candid sense of humor, and, above all, an unyielding, all-inclusive Christian belief system, which he uses to counter the intolerance he experiences in his everyday life.
Because he is a Canadian, Cole and his girlfriend struggle as they find their way through immigration laws. He is also struggling with unemployment and coming into his transgender identity in rural North Carolina. The couple must do this on their own, as they have been exiled from their homes, church, and community. The documentary addresses the couple’s search for a church that is accepting of Cole’s true identity, so they will be able to worship freely and without judgment. This film is about rebirth, strength, and courage, which grows out of America’s ultra-conservative Bible Belt.
Sarandon was the executive producer of Deep Run. Now she is challenging people all across the world to Embrace Change in the LGBTQ community. Embrace Change is selling limited edition shirts in order to raise money to fund a wider release of this coming-of-age transgender movie project. Sarandon designed the shirts and 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales will go toward financing Deep Run. The Embrace Change campaign on Represent will be selling t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops until July 26. The goal of the fundraiser is to sell 3,000 shirts, and as of 1:30 a.m. EST on July 20, 2,220 shirts had been sold.
Sarandon has been working on this documentary for six years. With her campaign on Represent, she is pushing the change that she believes is needed in this world by raising money to release this transgender movie, Deep Run. Films that push the envelope or challenge the status quo are considered political in Hollywood. It is, therefore, understood that each film and creative work will either strengthen stereotypes, such as ageism or sexism, or it will challenge the widely accepted patterns.
Sarandon credits Jenner for starting the public conversation about living in a body that one cannot identify with, understand, or feel comfortable inside of. The transition can be a sense of relief, but can be dangerous as well.
Sarandon will also be starring in a fictional movie concerning transgender issues. Its working title is Three Generations. Sarandon says that Harvey Weinstein bought the film at Cannes. She will be starring with Naomi Watts and Elle Fanning. Sarandon represents the transgender community and is working to open people’s eyes through her production of the Deep Run movie. The film opened June 26 in San Francisco and now, Sarandon is working to make the movie available to a larger population.
By Jeanette Smith
Edited by Jennifer Pfalz
Deep Run: ‘About’
Represent: ‘Susan Sarandon’s “Embrace the Change” Tee!’
LA Times: ‘Outfest Los Angeles Explores A World of Transgender Experiences On Film’
NY Daily News: ‘Susan Sarandon: Hollywood’s About Money, Not Politics’
Photos Courtesy of:
Top Photo Courtesy of David Shankbone’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Photo Courtesy of Ingrid Richter’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License