Inside NewFest 2009


By Mike Berlin

The Baby Formula (dir. Allison Reid)
Perhaps one of the best ways to tackle the heavily fraught topic of reproductive options for lesbian and gay couples is to ridicule it like Allison Reid does in The Baby Formula. Reid's mockumentary focuses on two lesbian partners, Athena (Angela Vint) and Lilith (Megan Fahlenbock), who are dead-set on having each other's true offspring. Athena convinces one of her coworkers at a research lab to make sperm of Lilith's stem cells and impregnate her with them. The couple must keep the experimental procedure a secret to prevent media frenzy, but decide to tell their families the truth when Athena's deadbeat brother accuses Lilith of seducing him and stealing his semen. Much of the film's hilarity is derived from the interaction between Lilith and Athena's diametrically opposed families -- the former made up of two bitchy, recovering alcoholic queens and the latter made up of repressed Irish Catholics. It's the self-aware use of such tried-and-true family drama tropes, along with Reid's refusal to politicize reproductive rights, which lends a newfound humanity to the issues covered therein. In other words, The Baby Formula is deeply touching and thought provoking without being ultra sappy or preachy.

against a trans narrative (dir. Jules Rosskam)
against a trans narrative, an experimental documentary about trans-masculine identity, examines the ways in which we label and view gender and sexuality within the LGBTQ community. Versatile in form, the documentary also includes fictional vignettes that depict individuals transitioning from female to male. These shorts -- one portraying a teenage girl trying to obtain testosterone, another depicting a lesbian couple fighting over what it means to become male -- serve as conversation starters for the varied panel of queer and gender theorists offering up their take on trans-masculine identity. Alongside theoretical discourse, the documentary tackles its subject matter on a personal level, as Rosskam's own transition is depicted in tense conversations with his girlfriend. Will she resent Rosskam's male body after the hormones and surgery? Does such a physical transition exclude him from lesbianism, or even feminism? As tough as these questions may be, the documentary never seeks to portray its trans-masculine subjects as chronically disenfranchised by any means. Instead, it shares the myriad perspectives of gender and sexuality that fall underneath and beyond the umbrella of LGBTQ.

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