Hot Docs, North America's biggest documentary film festival, kicks off its 2011 run on April 28 in Toronto. Jam-packed with documentaries running through May 8, Moviefone Canada will be there from start to finish, offering up looks at some of the festival's noted films.
Chaz Bono is a man.
This wasn't always the case. Gender transition is examined emotionally, spiritually and physically in the stellar documentary 'Becoming Chaz,' which captures the final moments of Sonny and Cher's daughter -- before she becomes their son.
The film joins Chaz and girlfriend Jennifer well into the process. What once was a lesbian couple now find themselves realizing the complications that come with transitioning. Jennifer is an amazing supporter with a great sense of humor about a new regime of surgeries, testosterone injections and weight gain -– but what about living with a man?
The first 30 minutes of 'Becoming Chaz' deals specifically with breast-removal surgery. Borrowing money, the couple sticks together through consultations and pre-surgery prep. Surprisingly, Bono lets directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato capture some of the most intimate moments of the procedure. Back home and healing, an odd selection of little dogs and hairless cats keep Chaz and Jennifer company, while an amazing group of supporters surround the unconventional couple.
As testosterone treatment continues to produce changes in Chaz's attitude and body, Jennifer wonders if their relationship can survive. Both have suffered from substance abuse, which rears its head again through portions of the doc.
Family members and friends come to terms with the transition, and some are thrilled ... but what does Mom think? Cher gives a down-to-earth and revealing interview in the film, with commentary about her thoughts added later by Chaz. She is candid about her reservations with the public nature of the transition, and reminisces about her little girl, but ultimately proves to be a supporter.
The film focuses on Chaz, but takes a few side trips to profile some of the not-so-famous members of the trans community. A slightly jarring segment on bottom surgery, the groups who support trans children, and a trans convention all help to round out coverage on the broader subject.
There is a lot of charm in 'Becoming Chaz.' Bono is a celebrity by genetics and as he ringleads the media circus around his announcement, it is easy to see how others would lose their cool over sophomoric interview questions and flashy commentary (that is insensitive at best). Instead he sticks to a relatively simple message that he has always felt like a man, and is now living out his reality.
Spending time with Chaz Bono in this doc, while a specific example, will help people buy into the idea that transitioning is a real thing for real people. I, for one, left the film feeling that Chaz really is one of the guys.
Following the festival circuit, the doc will get a true litmus test when it's screened on the Oprah Winfrey Network later this year.
Sunday, May 8, 6:45PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
For complete schedule and movie listings, visit the Hot Docs website.