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'Transition' review: Convincing portrait of trans man living with the Taliban, but lacking context

In the opening moments of Transition, Jordan Bryon, the documentary’s protagonist and co-director, turns his face to the camera. He leans in and checks for hair on his chin. There are faint signs of growth, and Bryon strokes his short beard as he speaks to us.

“I’m fucking nervous,” he said, alluding to his current situation. “There are so many intertwined threads that it becomes a mess.” The precarious situation woven by these threads is the subject of Bryan’s film, shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival on premiere. Transition, co-directed with journalist Monica Villamizar, documents Bryan’s gender transition with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The stakes are high for the documentary filmmaker, who decided to stay in the country after rebels took over the city in August 26.


Bottom line More fleshed out gestural portraits are needed.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Documentary Competition)
director: Jordan Bryon, Monica Villamisal 1 hour 12 minutes

Even before the takeover, Afghanistan was not a safe haven for gays: same sex relations in 29 is legally prohibited in such as

. With the presence of the Taliban, any chance of a life of relative peace disappeared, creating new obstacles for these people. Queer Afghans not only have fewer job opportunities, but also face the risk of being reported to insurgent forces by family and friends. Recent reports suggest that while the Taliban deny allegations of harassment of gay Afghans, abuse remains widespread . As Bryon said early on in Transition, the queer community in Afghanistan is “very, very underground.”

So Bryon was understandably nervous going through his gender transition while filming the Taliban. The man he spends time with his colleague Farzad Fetrat (affectionately known as Teddy) has no idea of ​​the filmmaker’s testosterone injections or upcoming top-notch surgery in Iran. Transition builds upon the tension between Bryon’s secrecy and the rigid ideology of these rebels. The more time the documentary filmmaker spent with the Taliban — learning about their day-to-day lives and occasionally interrogating their beliefs — the more he worried about possible exposure.

The risk of persecution or death hangs in the air of the Transition, which began a year before the fall of Kabul. The doc opens with a sense of Bryon’s everyday life: Roaming the city day and night; shooting footage for his projects; getting testosterone injections with an Afghan doctor; video calling his mother in Australia and talking to friends about his gender dysphoria . In a brief introductory voiceover, Bryan tells us about a life defined by binary thinking. He said he always felt trapped by his identity and was “always trying to escape the label and the stigma that comes with it.”

Bryon’s narrative joins a small (but constant Added) recent projects on transgender experiences, including Nicolò Bassetti’s tender Berlin documentary Into My Name

and Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s engrossing drama Stupid . In a world determined to strip trans people of their basic rights and humanity, these stories offer space to contemplate the depth, scope, and difference of that experience.

Well, that’s oddTransition was very close to Bryon, only briefly away to consider the issues raised by his own admission. Ironically for the documentary filmmaker, Afghanistan was a refuge from the austerity labels he longed to escape: “When I moved here, those things didn’t follow me,” he says. “Afghanistan accepted me.” There’s no doubt that the anonymity the country afforded him liberated Bryon: Leaving behind what you know and what you know is a gift in terms of self-discovery. But it’s not within everyone’s reach.

Bryon spent a lot of time talking with Teddy and photojournalist Kiana Hayeri about keeping secrets from Taliban units, his obligation to show trans people in a conservative Muslim society, and under Taliban occupation The rights of Afghanistan as a person are granted. These conversations are interesting and give us a chance to see where Bryon is at home. At one point, Hayeri disputed Bryon’s point, saying that he was not only a man but also a foreigner. One wonders if Transition would be better if more attention was paid to the last point. As a white Australian national and filmmaker, Brian was both skeptical and curious. Scenes of him being photographed by members of the Taliban confirmed his outsider status.

Bryon’s stance means a country whose current regime is seeking international diplomatic recognition What? The move does little to mitigate the perilous stakes facing the filmmaker and his friends and colleagues. But it does suggest that the access and freedoms his passport conferred helped his dire situation at least in part. Further exploration or acknowledgment of the situation might force doctors to gesture – if not necessarily explain in depth – how Bryon was able to inject hormones in Afghanistan and perform top-notch surgeries in Iran, procedures that, from my limited vantage point, appear to be, Beyond the realm of possibility for the average Afghan queer. These are the messy, intertwined issues that one might wish to Transition debate, and the ethical issues facing its individual subjects.

Documentation does provide insight. The atmosphere is really tense when Brian spends time with members of the Taliban, allowing viewers to eavesdrop on interesting conversations between the group that debunk their ideology. At one point, a Taliban figure said that being a man was more important than growing a beard, revealing that the freedoms granted to men, not women, were effectively forbidden by the regime. Transition also includes some extraordinary footage that adds to our understanding of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Abandoned planes sit on desolate tarmacs, rows of closed businesses and empty parking lots are here no less than in her hands (Bryon as cinematographer) and Bread and Roses

, premiered at Cannes last month.

These glimpses of Afghanistan are subtly edited into footage of Brian’s own life. While filming Transition, Bryon was on a mission to create a feature film in the final stages of post-production. Even if the documentary doesn’t live up to its ambitions or potential, it does foreshadow the director’s exciting work.

Full credits

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Documentary Competition)Producer: ACG Unwritten, Our Time Projects, Ruvkrika, Tikal MediaDirectors: Jordan Bryon, Monica VillamizarProducer: Monica Villamizar Executive Producers: Matthew Heinemann, Stuart Ford, Lourdes Diaz, BJ Levine, Sebastian Hernandez, Juan Manuel Betancourt, Joedan Okun, Joel Zimmer
Photographers: Jordan Bryon, Farzad Fetrat(Teddy) , Toby Muse, Gelareh Kiazand, Neil BrandvoldEditors: Eduardo Resing, Maria Alejandra Briganti Music: Nadim Mishrawi
Sales: AGC Studios

Dari, English, Persian 1 hour29 minute

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