The Most Dangerous Year


Just a good old-fashioned protest.

(2018) Documentary (Passion River) Vlada Knowlton, Aidan Key, Meghan Hebert-Trainer, Kristina Olson, Joe Fain, Tiffany Dolmseth Kelly, Jim Ritter, Sarah Taboada, Ryan Trainer, Laurie Jinkins, Cyrus Habib, Erika Laurentz, Asaf Orr, Kristina Olson, Kevin Hatfield, Huddle Morris Blakefield, Johanna Olson-Kennedy, Jennifer Popkin. Directed by Vlada Knowlton

 

The Human Rights Report called 2016 the most dangerous year for transgenders on account of all the so-called “bathroom bills” aimed at disallowing transgenders from using public bathrooms of their gender identification, mandating that they use the bathrooms of the genders that they were born with. The supporters of the legislature tended to demonize transgenders, depicting them all as some sort of closet Norman Bates, going into women’s bathrooms to prey on women despite absolutely no evidence that this sort of issue was occurring. In fact, transgenders have been using the bathrooms of their gender identification for decades without incident. All of a sudden, they’ve become demonic sexual predators in the eyes of Middle America.

Much attention was focused on HB 2, the notorious North Carolina bill that was signed into law by governor Pat McCrory which led to widespread protests and sanctions, losing the state an estimated $400 million in revenue. McCrory was eventually defeated in his bid for re-election and his successor, a Democrat, quietly repealed the bill.

=However, there were similar bills that came onto the books in a succession of Red States and, surprisingly, Washington – one of the most progressive states in the union. Vlada Knowlton, a documentary filmmaker based in Seattle, especially had a stake in the politics – she is the mother of a five-year-old (at the time) trans daughter. She, like many parents of transgenders, realized that the bill was just a first step in making second class citizens of their children and could lead to violence against them. The suicide rate among transgenders is already high.

The movie chronicles the fight against Washington SB 6443 which was similarly worded to the notorious HB 2, and then later attempts to get a ballot initiative (I-1515) onto the 2016 ballot for the citizens of Washington to vote on. Knowlton attends plenty of senate hearings, court cases and town halls; while she interviews a few supporters of these bills and questions them as to why they believe that way, clearly this isn’t a subject she can’t be objective about – nor should she be.

Aidan Key, a transgender activist, comes off as one of the heroes here as does Washington State Senator Joe Fain, a Republican who voted against the bill which led to some anger among his supporters, one of whom threatened to punch him in the nose at a contentious town hall (note to Angry White Man: You do not have the right to punch a state senator in the nose. You make the decision to do so. The State Senator then has the right to bring you up on charges, and you have the right to representation when you go to trial for assault and battery).

This is an important documentary, a little bit on the raw side but certainly one that needed to be made. Even the Gay and Lesbian community hasn’t been as vocally supportive of the Transgender community as they might have been; in some ways Transgenders are the most vulnerable of our population; they have little representation and few supporters. That the parent’s groups have stepped up is heartening. Parallels are drawn between the segregation of African-Americans in the Jim Crow South and the current laws (or attempt at laws) aimed against transgenders that are effectively done.

The soundtrack has is really nice and Knowlton is a decent narrator. There is a whole lot of interview footage which can get tedious but one can’t deny the passion or the heart behind the documentary. All parents of transgender kids – and those who are allies – should see this. More importantly, people who think transgenders should be excluded from using the bathrooms of their gender identification should see this too.

REASONS TO SEE: The stories are heartbreaking. The soundtrack is terrific.
REASONS TO AVOID: There is an over-reliance on interviews.
FAMILY VALUES: Thematically this is on the adult side; there is also some mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Knowlton worked at Microsoft prior to becoming a filmmaker.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Freedom to Marry
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
Collisions

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Pick of the Litter – April 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Avengers: Endgame

(Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson. The events of Avengers: The Infinity War have left the universe devastated. Many friends have fallen but one hero doesn’t accept it; Captain America. He has a plan to put things to rights. Whether or not it works, one thing is certain – the Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same. This brings Phase III to an end. April 26

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Haunting of Sharon Tate

(Saban) Hilary Duff, Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, Pawel Szajda. Sometimes the prurient captures our imagination. In the days prior to one of the most notorious and gruesome murders in history, doomed actress Sharon Tate supposedly had premonitions of what was going to happen to her and her unborn baby. This movie follows along with that proposition. April 5

The Wind

(IFC Midnight) Caitlin Gerard, Julia Goldani Telles, Miles Anderson, Dylan McTee. A woman living in an isolated cabin on the prairie in the 19th century is disturbed by the non-stop winds. Her fears are further amplified when a newlywed couple moves in nearby. Despite her husband’s assurances that there is nothing out there but the wind, it turns out that there is something malevolent watching her and it has sharp claws. April 5

Unicorn Store

(Netflix) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Whitford, Joan Cusack. A young woman who is having trouble adjusting to adulthood receives a mysterious invitation to shop at a store that will allow her to fulfill her most precious childhood dreams. This charming film marks the directing debut of Oscar-winning actress Larson. April 5

Wild Nights With Emily

(Greenwich) Molly Shannon, Amy Seimetz, Susan Ziegler, Brett Gelman. Most of us who have any impression of the great poet Emily Dickinson see her as a reclusive spinster. However, this comedy explores her relationship with her sister-in-law Susan, to whom Emily’s letters reveal a much different side than popular thought.. April 12

The Most Dangerous Year

(Passion River) Vlada Knowlton. For the transgender community, it is generally agreed upon that 2016 was one of the most dangerous years for that community ever as several states considered banning transgenders from using public restrooms of the gender they identified with. This deeply personal documentary (the filmmaker’s daughter is a transgender) highlights the human side of that controversial equation. April 12

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

(Kino-Lorber) Wei Tang, Jue Huang, Sylvia Chang, Hong-Chi Lee. This Chinese art house hit follows a lonely man returning to his native province where he reminisces about a mysterious woman whom he met 20 years earlier. Apparently, the hour-long climax was done in one single shot. Like most of director Gan Bi’s work, this is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. April 12

Satan & Adam

(Cargo) Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, Adam Gussow, Al Sharpton, The Edge. This duo of street musicians known as Satan and Adam couldn’t have been more different; one was a veteran Mississippi delta blues man who backed up the likes of Etta James and James Brown (at the Apollo Theater no less), the other an Ivy League-educated harmonica player. Together though they made music that would make Old Scratch himself dance a jig. April 12

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

(Screen Media) Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Olga Kurylenko. This long-awaited Terry Gilliam film finally sees the light of day! An acclaimed but cynical film director gets sucked into the delusions of a Spanish cobbler who believes himself to be Don Quixote de la Mancha and the director to be Sancho Panza. As the delusion becomes increasingly surreal, the director is forced to confront the repercussions of a film he made as a young man that devastated a Spanish village and the impending mortality of the cobbler. April 10 (Fathom Releases)

Under the Silver Lake

(A24) Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Jimmi Simpson. A young man whose life is going nowhere meets an effervescent young woman frolicking in the pool of his apartment complex and makes a connection – or so he thinks. When she seemingly disappears the next morning, he goes on a quest searching L.A. for hidden clues to find the girl of his dreams. April 19

The White Crow

(Sony Classics) Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adele Exarchopoulos. Rudolf Nureyev was perhaps the greatest dancer in the world. The Soviet Union used him as a political symbol of Soviet superiority in the arts. At the height of the Cold War, he defected – an act that was much more complicated than it sounds. April 26