The 2021 Inside Out Toronto LGBTQ Film Festival features many “LGBTQ” films one of which is “Being Thunder”.
The promo material indicates the documentary is about Sherenté Harris, a two-sprit genderqueer teenager from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island in the United States as she “boldly challenges the status quo of what it means to be a queer indigenous person”.
It is not surprising that indigenous people are just as prejudicial against their LGBTQ members as the larger North American society they live in. The documentary does not offer any stupendous breakthroughs in that regard.
The promo material leaves the impression that Harris faces all sorts of bias in competing in traditional dance contests. Yes there is bias but in the context of her dance contests there is not much there as it lacks footage or probing into the bias. There is more emphasis on the support she receives from certain members of the indigenous community particularly her family. And we should applaud that.
I am going to venture to say this is more a documentary about support and caring than prejudice and bias.
Then the sound goes wonky at one point in the film almost echoish. That demeans the quality of the filmmaking and in over a decade of reviewing films I have never encountered such poor sound quality.
What do Harris’ parent’s renewal vows have anything to do with bias and prejudice?
Well I’ll get to the point this documentary meanders and the sound quality issues rather cheapen it.
What we can take away for this film:
- Harris is a determined fighter deservedly wanting to be recognized and accepted in her community as a “queer”
- Indigenous communities are really not that different than the North American larger society they exist in
- Two-Spirit person is more sophisticated and eloquent than “queer”. Harris has both the spirit of a man and a woman therefore she is two-spirited
- Apparently some indigenous communities recognize the two-sprit concept which is more likely in tribes that have been more recently colonized and have not had their culture decimated like the East Coast tribes who were the first to be colonized
- American indigenous people also faced the ravages of residential schools
- A small group of indigenous people are trying to “educate” their communities as to two-spirited people
- If this film accomplishes anything it might be an exposure that two-spirited people face a rough ride in their communities.
While I can’t sugar-coat this documentary I admire Harris for chugging ahead looking for acceptance and dignity. That is truly inspiring but it all gets a bit jumbled in this sloppy documentary. The poor sound quality in a small part of the film indicates many were asleep at the wheel as this documentary hits the shoals. There is enough in the film to have me say don’t jump into the lifeboats. Stick it through.
You can see the documentary from May 27-June 6 virtually. To book tickets and peruse available films https://imagesfestival.com/
It is directed by Stéphanie Lamorré and is 85 minutes in length.