The 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival Review - Trinidad


The thing you need know about the LAFF is that the descriptions for the films make them all sound like documentaries. Unless you pay special attention to the categories, you will find yourself in a documentary, which I have twice this year so far. Fortunately, my mistake of choosing non-fiction was not coupled with the misfortune of choosing a bad film. My latest happy accident: Trinidad, named for the small town in Colorado with a population of about 9,000 which has the dubious honor of being labeled “sex change capital of the world.”

Trinidad follows the stories of three transgender persons as they move through the various stages of their Male to Female gender reassignment. Marci who was a practicing OB/GYN, had three children before she decided to live her life as a woman. She thought she was passing through Trinidad, but instead wound up becoming the foremost practitioner of what she refers to as genital reassignment, because as she explains, gender is predetermined as early as age three. Marci sees her job as realigning the individual’s physical genitalia with their emotional, psychological, predetermined gender. The overwhelming majority of her clientele are male to female reassignment surgeries. She has actually taken over the reins from one Dr. Biber, who was sanctioned by the Catholic church to perform the first sex reassignment surgery in Trinidad back in 1968.

Genital Reassignment surgeries are major source of revenue for the town's hospital

In her previous life, Sabrina was Mark, a practicing transvestite, married with two children. It was not until his eventual divorce and being ousted from his home that he seriously considered ending his half man/half woman life and contemplated the transition completely to a woman. He lost his lucrative job as an engineer with the space program. With no job and no family, once she found Trinidad, there really was nothing to go back to.

Laura was a general practitioner who arrived to Trinidad as a woman even though she was pre-operative. She too found work at the small town’s hospital and many say thank goodness for her because she has raised the standard of care for the town. Her transition however, has not been as smooth as the other women. She came to Trinidad to find her true self in an accepting community, but unlike the other stories, struggles to find her place, despite the support of her daughter.

I found it interesting that in such a small town, the relationships that develop are not the ones that you would expect given people’s similar life experiences. I like how the filmmakers PJ Raval & Jay Hodge, gage the temperament of the population at large more than once, unafraid to show that the townspeople are as generally conflicted and divided about the “sex change” business being in their  front yard.

Although the community at large voice conflicting opinions, mostly they live and let live here

The documentary does it’s best to broaden the understanding why people chose to undergo a sex change. It does it’s best to humanize the candidates and demystify the motives and necessity people feel about living in a body that they feel matches the person that they are on the inside. Moreover, the film emphasizes that there are spiritual, emotional and psychological hurdles to be navigated before and after any physical changes are performed. I sincerely wish these women and the community of Trinidad much luck in navigating the constant winds of change, in this small town that is hailed, for more reason than one, one of the last frontiers in America.

Trinidad made its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is in competition for Best Documentary. LAFF is running now through June 29, 2008 everywhere in the Westwood Village.

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