Vancouver International Film Festival

Sarah Caufield

This year's Vancouver International Film Festival ran from September 27th to October 12th, and among the films at the festival were a refreshing number of documentaries, a genre not so often shown in Vancouver. Sarah Caufield, host of the No Show, watched some of these, including She's A Boy I Knew, from Vancouver director Gwen Haworth, and had this to say...

Rarely does a film live up to its promotional tagline. She's a Boy I Knew guarantees to be “...the most compelling DIY, gender bending, feel good film directed by a transsexual you've seen all year!” And in this case, I can't agree more.

About seven years ago, Gwen wasn't the person she is today. In fact, she was Steven, married, working on his film degree. But around that time, Steven came out to his family and friends, courageously opening herself for all to see. She's a Boy I Knew documents Gwen's gender transition from her own perspective, but also through interviews with the six people closest to her at that time – her family, her then-wife, and her childhood best friend.

Straight-forward and matter-of-fact, Gwen doesn't shy away from telling the full story, including the good and the bad. But more affecting are the interviews with her family, and the stark honesty: Gwen's mother's expectations of what a “girl” should be like, her father's difficulty in coming to terms with Gwens transition, her ex-wife's admissions to her own feelings of betrayal. But each heart-wrenching admission is matched by an ironic, humourous anecdote elsewhere in the film.

During a Q&A period after a screening of the film, Gwen admitted that part of the reason she made the film was to create the movie that would have helped her as she began her transition. Hoping that her film will fill that void, she's made it easily accessible, and stays away from any sort of preaching. Instead, She's a Boy I Knew is a story of finding oneself, and of family, and ultimately, there's something in the film for every viewer.

Given the open honesty of the film, it's no wonder that it won the Vancity People's Choice Award for Most Popular Canadian Film at this year's Film Festival. It's certain to be shown in these parts again soon, and it's well worth watching. It's unlikely that you'll feel so intimate with a filmmaker and 1000 other people in the room at any other time.

The Vancouver International Film Fest is now over, but look for She's A Boy I Knew and other festival films to return to the Vancity Film Center, Pacific Cinematheque, and Tinseltown over the coming months.

  • Posted on: 11 March 2016
  • By: Administrator