« My SDFF - Slumdog/Christmas | Main | My SDFF - Two Documentaries on Hollywood Filmmakers »

November 14, 2008

My SDFF - Trinidad

trinidad 1.jpg

Jay Hodges and J. P. Ravel
Surly Puppy Production

The most interesting aspect of Trinidad would be the questions raised, and the conflicts revealed. Part of the film is the story about how a small town in southern Colorado became the "sex-change capital of the world" through an unlikely confluence of one doctor's opportunity with the needs of two communities. The doctor was Stanley Biber, who turned a request for a surgery he had never done before into a specialty, with almost six-thousand patients, fulfilling the needs of a growing number of transexuals. The surgery, in turn, has been considered an economic boon to a town that had seen the disappearance of its mining industry and much of its population, and was in danger of losing its hospital.

In addition to the divisions of opinion Trinidad residents may have about what makes their town famous, the documentary is open enough to show the divergence between some of the transexuals themselves in how they view their own lives. The film mostly focuses on Dr. Marci Bowers, an established Seattle physician, and herself a former patient of Dr. Biber's, who took over his practice when Biber retired. What Trinidad could really be said to be about is how people choose to define themselves and others.

trinidad 2.jpg

The graphic footage of surgery is a distraction from any meaningful issues. That there is surgery brings up the question of sexuality and sexual identity based solely on genitalia. It is a Catholic priest in Trinidad, a self-described conservative, who acknowledges the idea of a sexual spectrum. If I were to recommend Trinidad to anyone, it would primarily be to those pounced on the notion of Colorado as the "Hate State" following the temporary passing of the notorious Amendment 2, which proportionately was not very different from California's Proposition 8 in the amount of votes. Change of sexual identity is one part of Trinidad. For some, a temporary stay has become permanent, as for Dr. Bowers. For others, living in Trinidad can be seen as a segment of a life long transition. Even if sexual reassignment surgery is less sensational than it was in the past, eyebrows might be raised in knowing how Trinidad changed Dr. Biber's life. What may be most amazing is that a five foot two Jewish doctor transformed himself into a real life cattle rancher, complete with the cowboy hat and boots, and the father of ten children. Sometimes it's the accidents of life that cause the most radical changes.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 14, 2008 12:26 AM