broken bonds, mended identity

published: outwords inc., issue #145, september 2007

tagline: an emotionally revealing documentary explores twinship and geneder identity.

Red was the colour given to Mark as a child. Blue was the one given to Alex. Red Without Blue is the story of how Mark and Alex became Mark and Clair: identical twins whose lives changed forever when their gender identity took them down two very different paths. Insightful, honest, and captivating, the award-winning documentary follows the journey one family took to find themselves again. Since its release last January, Red Without Blue has taken independent and gay and lesbian film festivals by storm, and rightly so.

For three years, filmmakers Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills, and Todd Sills followed the lives of Mark and Clair, both in their early 20s, as they resided on opposite coasts. Mark lived in San Francisco as a fine arts student while Clair went to school and struggled with her transgender identity in New York City. As the documentary unfolds, interviews with the twins, their mother Jennie, and their father Scott, reveal the twins dramatic childhood. At age 13, life took a turn for the worse when Alex came out as gay. Forced out of the closet with him, Mark came out shortly after. Into high school, the two were tormented and became heavily involved in drugs. After an attempted suicide together, they were separated from each other for two years. Once they were reunited, Mark learned of Alex’s decision to become Clair.

The documentary inherently invokes questions about the nature of twinship and its correlation to sexual orientation. This theme is explored in full as the filmmakers trace the subjects lives from past to present with in-depth footage and photographs starting from when they were children.

“We just don’t fit into that white picket fence and I don’t think we ever have,” Mark says after reflecting on his family situation. Shockingly honest and remarkably insightful, the four family members don't hold back in the interview process. As she comes to terms with the decision to have sexual reassignment surgery, Clair admits, “I really don’t think I was born in this world as a man or a woman … I think the process of changing was the path I was born into.” As the three years pass, it is visible in the film how time becomes a major catalyst in healing the family’s wounds.

Benita Sills, the documentary’s co-director, editor, and producer, told Outwords Inc. that she never expected the film to be as successful as it was. “We didn’t have any clue it was going to be [so] well received,” she says for herself and the other filmmakers. The project started in 2003 when Mark, the subject in the film, moved in to a San Francisco apartment with Brooke, the other filmmaker, says Benita. From there the film evolved through an organic process. “It could have a sad ending,” she admits, because everyone was unaware at the start as to how it would end.

“If you have an approach to filmmaking where the subject feels comfortable enough with the camera to let you enter their lives, you have an excellent opportunity to capture something really honest,” remarks Sills. Red Without Blue is proof of that. It is the story of love, loss, change, and acceptance. By opening up their lives to the camera, the truth behind the story of Mark and Clair reveals how they became one, once again, with themselves and with their family.

Red Without Blue will be screened as part of the Reel Pride festival at the Cinematheque, Saturday October 20, 7:00 p.m. The DVD will be released on October 2.

published: outwords inc., issue #145, september 2007

tagline: an emotionally revealing documentary explores twinship and geneder identity.

Red was the colour given to Mark as a child. Blue was the one given to Alex. Red Without Blue is the story of how Mark and Alex became Mark and Clair: identical twins whose lives changed forever when their gender identity took them down two very different paths. Insightful, honest, and captivating, the award-winning documentary follows the journey one family took to find themselves again. Since its release last January, Red Without Blue has taken independent and gay and lesbian film festivals by storm, and rightly so.

For three years, filmmakers Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills, and Todd Sills followed the lives of Mark and Clair, both in their early 20s, as they resided on opposite coasts. Mark lived in San Francisco as a fine arts student while Clair went to school and struggled with her transgender identity in New York City. As the documentary unfolds, interviews with the twins, their mother Jennie, and their father Scott, reveal the twins dramatic childhood. At age 13, life took a turn for the worse when Alex came out as gay. Forced out of the closet with him, Mark came out shortly after. Into high school, the two were tormented and became heavily involved in drugs. After an attempted suicide together, they were separated from each other for two years. Once they were reunited, Mark learned of Alex’s decision to become Clair.

The documentary inherently invokes questions about the nature of twinship and its correlation to sexual orientation. This theme is explored in full as the filmmakers trace the subjects lives from past to present with in-depth footage and photographs starting from when they were children.

“We just don’t fit into that white picket fence and I don’t think we ever have,” Mark says after reflecting on his family situation. Shockingly honest and remarkably insightful, the four family members don't hold back in the interview process. As she comes to terms with the decision to have sexual reassignment surgery, Clair admits, “I really don’t think I was born in this world as a man or a woman … I think the process of changing was the path I was born into.” As the three years pass, it is visible in the film how time becomes a major catalyst in healing the family’s wounds.

Benita Sills, the documentary’s co-director, editor, and producer, told Outwords Inc. that she never expected the film to be as successful as it was. “We didn’t have any clue it was going to be [so] well received,” she says for herself and the other filmmakers. The project started in 2003 when Mark, the subject in the film, moved in to a San Francisco apartment with Brooke, the other filmmaker, says Benita. From there the film evolved through an organic process. “It could have a sad ending,” she admits, because everyone was unaware at the start as to how it would end.

“If you have an approach to filmmaking where the subject feels comfortable enough with the camera to let you enter their lives, you have an excellent opportunity to capture something really honest,” remarks Sills. Red Without Blue is proof of that. It is the story of love, loss, change, and acceptance. By opening up their lives to the camera, the truth behind the story of Mark and Clair reveals how they became one, once again, with themselves and with their family.

Red Without Blue will be screened as part of the Reel Pride festival at the Cinematheque, Saturday October 20, 7:00 p.m. The DVD will be released on October 2.