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A well-timed and thrilling analysis of the history of transgender stories on screen, from the silent era to the present day.
Director: Sam Feder
Cinema and TV have a difficult history in reinforcing narrow mainstream gender norms and have often painted LGBTIQ+ people as dangerous. Like a trans-focused sequel to the seminal documentary The Celluloid Closet, this fascinating film wrangles with the history of problematic depictions and celebrates the unravelling of various stereotypes.
A labour of love for director Sam Feder (whose last documentary was Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger, a portrait of the pioneering writer and activist) the film features Laverne Cox at the helm and a cast of big hitters, including the Wachowski sisters and Chaz Bono. But it achieves much more than a rollcall of clips and celebrity talking heads. There’s fascinating insight from Professor Susan Stryker, who places trans stories at the birth of cinema with the invention of the cinematic cut in the 1910s, and Yance Ford, who probes the horrible history of the blackface in the same era, drawing parallels with the handling of theatrical cross-dressing. Touching on titles as wide-ranging as Yentl, Psycho, and Tootsie, the film also exposes a downward trajectory in positive representation during in the 1990s, as evinced by TV shows like Jerry Springer and the infamous final scene of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, two of the most appalling and damaging examples cited. As an overdue assassination of troublesome tropes, Disclosure is absorbing and informative, providing a timely history lesson at the crossroads of change. As part of BFI Flare at Home, this film is only available until Wednesday April 2 2020.