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Mercury Cinema, Sun Nov 23
There is nothing about Buck Angel that screams anything but raw, unabashed masculinity. He is shorter than one imagines yet his broad shouldered muscular physique coupled with the shaved head and tatts make it impossible to see anything other than the man he is. Angel’s road to celebrating his own identity is shared in Dan Hunt’s documentary, Mr Angel. As the film unfolds it is clear that being a ‘man’ is about so much more than appearances.
Angel himself introduced the documentary, sharing his reluctance to have a film maker portray his life onscreen. Hunt approached him a number of times over the years until Angel himself felt ready to commit his life to celluloid. By then, life experiences had influenced Angel’s understanding of his own tale and he realised his story to be an important one that needed to be shared.
Born a girl to conservative parents in LA’s San Fernando Valley area, Angel’s tomboy tendencies were not a real issue until the teen years where a suicide attempt led to therapy and the admission to parents that he felt like a man. Through interviews and archival footage we are privy to his early family life and their struggles with this child, warts and all. This is an emotional film mostly because we are confronted by the very real and lasting hurt of parental rejection during those early years in Angel’s quest to develop an identity. At the same time we can recognize Angel’s parents as products of the culture at that time, their struggles to understand their son also an emotional experience for the audience. The honesty is arresting, not only from Angel but from a confused father in particular, trapped in his own narrow understanding of manhood and masculinity.
Here is the crux of the matter – and the reason Angel has become an icon, a trailblazer and an educator for transgender identity all over the world – people may accept his right to call himself a man, but he still remains an ‘oddity’ to most of the population. Angel’s gender reassignment stopped short of surgery ‘down below’ and the film is not shy about portraying ‘the man with a pussy” in perfect detail. In the beginning, his mission was just to change the porn industry –get some authentic trans representation out there – now, in his own words, his mission is to ‘change the world’.
The Q & A session that followed the film saw Angel answering some quite intimate questions from a clearly star-struck audience. He was honest, direct, funny and personable and clearly committed to encouraging the LGTBI community to ‘let go’ and be who they are supposed to be.
This is an entertaining, fascinating, heart wrenching and vitally important documentary for the community and one that should be seen by all.
Rosie van Heerde