Documentary filmmaker and Tucson native Brooke Sebold's work-in-progress, Red Without Blue, explores "universal themes of family and relationship, through the transgender experience, that anyone can relate to," said Sebold in a recent phone interview. She will introduce excerpts from the film and lead a discussion afterward at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway, on Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. The showing will be preceded by a reception at 6 p.m.
This is a kick-off event for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Jewish Inclusion Project, which grew out of the 2002 Tucson Jewish population study that found a lack of LGBT affiliation in the Jewish community. Ed Levin, recently hired as project manager for the inclusion project, moved to Tucson two and a half years ago. He says that it has been easy to get involved in the Tucson gay community, but "very challenging to plug into the Jewish community."
Funded by a Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona compelling needs grant, the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation, Jewish Family & Children's Service, Wingspan and the Gertrude Stein Salon, the project will address the need to "create safe and welcoming spaces for LGBT people," says Levin.
In making Red Without Blue, Sebold says she wants to "give exposure to the transgender issue." When she learned about her roommate Mark's identical twin, Clair (formerly Alex), she says that their family story resonated with her. As a "serious tomboy" who was "also very close to my older brother Jordan," she reflects, "I always wondered what it would be like to grow up a man."
When Mark and Alex Farley came out as gay in the seventh grade, their mother supported them, but they were "really in the dark," says Sebold. "They started befriending 30-year-old gay men with bad intentions; they got into pretty self-destructive behavior," she says. Ultimately, notes Sebold, Mark and Clair's "picture-perfect American family had to endure and overcome their struggle."
When she was in the seventh grade, Sebold, now 24, nearly died in a skiing accident. She was in a coma for 10 days and remained in a wheelchair for a year, missing most of the eighth grade at Tucson Hebrew Academy. During that year, she says, recalling her family's closeness and support, "my dad would go to Blockbuster and rent six movies every day" for her. Before the accident, "I was a real athlete focused on sports. I wanted to be the first woman in the NFL," says Sebold. Instead, "my time alone watching movies and creating art was a pivotal moment, the opportunity to get to know myself," she says.
Sebold also missed six months of her sophomore year at St. Gregory's College Preparatory School because of an infected stitch from post-accident surgery. But she went on to Brown University, graduating in 2003 with a degree in visual arts and film theory, and moved to San Francisco for an internship with Citizen Films, which later turned into a job.
With Mark's input, along with co-directors Benita Naschold and Todd Sills, the production of Red Without Blue is a "collaborative process, trying to make the film as intimate as possible," says Sebold, adding that the co-directors "take on the story as our own."
Red Without Blue has already won some awards, including a coveted screening at the recent IFP Market and Conference for independent filmmakers in New York, where PBS, Sundance, HBO/Cinemax and other distributors "expressed continued interest in the completed film [projected for June 2006]," according to Sebold.
For Ronnie Sebold, her daughter's accomplishments recall the efforts of the Jewish community 12 years ago: "This community cried for her, they prayed for her. They rallied around her like I can't believe," she says, and now Brooke's first documentary will be previewed in Tucson. Even today, says Ronnie, "Everybody at THA asks, "How's she doing?'"
Sebold says she is "overwhelmed by the encouragement - both emotional and financial - that I have already received from the Tucson Jewish community for this project." All proceeds from the Nov. 14 event will go toward the completion of Red Without Blue. The filmmaker's passion for life and her work is palpable: "I feel very grateful; this is what I was meant to do," she says. "I got a chance to learn who I should be at an early age."
Tickets for the reception, film and discussion are $15; for the film and discussion $8. For more information, call 577-9393, ext.116 or 299-3000, ext. 217.