GOFF 2014: Stephen’s 2 Line Review – T is for Teacher

GOFF Doco Explores The Transition Of Four Transgender Teachers. Inspiring Stuff.

The inaugural Girls on Film Festival (GOFF) kicks off tomorrow night at the Northcote Town Hall with Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, a right rollicking adaptation of Cherie Currie’s autobiography, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, starring Dakota Fanning as Currie and Kristen Stewart being actually pretty awesome as Joan Jett.

GOFF’s a film festival run by feminists, for feminists, celebrating strong women in film, be they directors, writers or the stars of the show, with several cult classics cult getting an airing including Michael Lehman’s Heathers, Niki Caro’s Whale Rider and a bit of Dolly gold with Nine to Five.

Melbourne-based independent filmmaker Rohan Spong, an associate director of GOFF, will be showcasing his 2009 doco T is For Teacher on Sunday afternoon. A fascinating exploration of the transition of four transgender teachers, male to female, shot over the course of one year travelling the US, perhaps the most surprising element is the general ease with which most of the women interviewed here are accepted by their community, barring a few vocal exceptions.

A paired back presentation that rests on the strength of its subjects, including the fantastic opening interviewee Debra Davis, T is for Teacher is a powerful and ultimately hope-filled affair that manages to confound not only the smothering narrative of youth disaffection, but also the lazy criticisms too easily fired against small-town America.

A battalion of students, parents and colleagues muster to support their teacher, again and again repeating that it’s what you do, not who you are, or were, that matters. It’s extremely refreshing, but of course there is a minority of vocal dissenters. It’s commendable that Spong doesn’t take the easy route and vilify or ridicule the naysayers. His is a well-balanced dialogue that, even if we do find ourselves appalled at some of the hypocrisy on show, nonetheless gives everyone a fair go and refuses cheap shots.

If the young folks on show in T is for Teacher are anything to go by, it seems like the future isn’t as much of a lost cause as it’s sometimes tempting to believe. It’s great to kick off GOFF with a broad view of womanhood, gender identity and demonstrations of pride too.

Stephen A Russell

T is For Teacher is showing at GOFF on Sunday, 2pm, introduced by the president of Transgender Victoria, Grace Lee, then a Q&A with Spong and GOFF’s Cerise Howard afterwards. For more info, click here.