In June 2016, Scottish artist filmmaker Lucie Rachel released Where We Are Now, an insightful personal documentary about the relationship between a young bisexual woman and her transgender parent, who recently made the decision to transition. The moving 9-minute film presents viewers with a rare, intimate look at a non-heteronormative family. The film pairs clips of Rachel and her parent going about their daily lives with candid voiceover reflections on the transition process. Where We Are Now shines as a testament to the simple truth that we are all more similar than we are different.
The film comes at a pivotal time in the transgender rights movement. Although transgender people in mainstream media have increased over the past several years, there is still a long way to go. According to GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” report (2016), there are only 16 regular and recurring transgender characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming original series combined. And too often transgender people continue to be portrayed by cisgender actors - this both denies trans actors employment as well as jeopardizes the authenticity of the production. As Jen Richards, trans actor, sums up:
“Having trans people play trans people allows for more informed, subtle, authentic performance. It makes for BETTER ART, which is the point.”
Rachel cites this persistent lack of transgender narratives in mainstream media as one of her primary motivators for creating Where We Are Now:
“At the time I was graduating from art school, I’d just completed my first film and accompanying photo book, both titled Mother Father, about my parents’ relationship and coming out for my degree show. Shortly after completing this work, my parent told me she planned to transition, which was - despite all signs pointing here - somewhat unexpected news for my sister and I. From then, I felt compelled to continue the story and to document the changes in our relationship in the early days of the transition process. I wanted to focus on the emotional side of things and avoid the clinical content that is so often present in the media surrounding transgender stories, and I also wanted my parent to be able to use the platform to tell her own story.”
As LGBTQ rights, particularly trans rights, continue to come under fire in the U.S. and abroad, authentic LGBTQ narratives like Where We Are Now become even more necessary. In the past month alone, the Trump administration formally rescinded crucial protections for transgender students and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on Gavin Grimm’s prominent transgender rights case that could have determined whether federal law covers gender identity discrimination in public schools.
In this trying time for transgender people, Where We Are Now amplifies a transgender voice. In the film, Rachel’s parent considers the impact of her transition:
“I’ve not changed. I can see to the outside world it would seem like a big change. All that’s really happened is that I’ve been able to show the world who I really am. And just be able to get on with my life.”
Rachel’s film expands that world. By screening her parent’s story to global audiences, Rachel helps to affirm the trans experience and the non-heteronormative family.
Since its release, this groundbreaking short documentary has been screened at 19 film festivals and garnered over 10,000 views on YouTube. After premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (2016), Where We Are Now was named “Best Scottish Short” at the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, which automatically nominated the film for the Iris Prize (2017). The film also won “Best Documentary” at the Forbes Under 30 Film Festival.
While Rachel describes her Forbes Under 30 win as “totally unexpected and awesome,” she remains most proud of her parent’s positive reaction to the film:
“To be honest though, the best moment was sitting next to my parent in the premiere as she watched it for the first time, and hearing that she liked it.”
Through earning its impressive spread of accolades, Where We Are Now has both shed light on a talented young LGBTQ filmmaker in Rachel and provided a platform for a transgender woman to share her story with global audiences.
Luckily, this pioneering film shows little signs of slowing down.
Most recently, Where We Are Now was selected by the British Council and the British Film Institute for FiveFilms4Freedom 2017, the largest global online LGBT film festival. This selection will allow the film to continue to reach people who typically lack access to queer cinema. From March 16th-26th, 2017, FiveFilms4Freedom will make the five selected short films available online and free of charge for audiences in 180 different countries.
On March 21st, 2017, viewers worldwide are encouraged to watch and share the five films using the hashtag #FiveFilms4Freedom to recognize that love is a human right.
Arguably one of the best things about Where We Are Now is the universality of its message. Rachel balances the particularity of her narrative voiceover with elegant shots of workaday chores, exercise, and social gathering. Rachel’s family may be unique, but her daily life is familiar. In her own words:
“I guess the universal (and somewhat cliche) message of the film is that loving, supporting and accepting yourself is an essential part of the same process of loving and supporting and accepting others. Change isn’t a straight forward process, it takes time and it’s okay to find it difficult, but it’s inevitable and we should endeavour to embrace it.”
Support the short documentary advancing transgender visibility worldwide:
Watch Where We Are Now online and free of charge from March 16th-26th, 2017 (courtesy of #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017).
Share the film on social media with the hashtag #FiveFilms4Freedom to raise awareness of the campaign and support the #LoveIsAHumanRight movement.
Visit COLAGE! if you are a person with non-heteronormative family.