Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No Dumb Questions

Imagine for a moment that you are the parent of three little girls, ages 6, 9, and 11. They all adore their Uncle Bob, and look forward to his visits. Imagine that you get a letter from Uncle Bob, telling you that he is in the process of becoming Aunt Barbara. What do you do? What do you tell the girls? And how do you answer, when they start asking questions?

This real-life situation is the subject of the documentary No Dumb Questions from filmmaker Melissa Regan. The film follows the girls and their parents from shortly after they get the letter through the first meeting with Aunt Barbara. It is poignant, funny, and educational as all get out.

The title comes from the letter: Aunt Barbara reassures her brother and his family that there are no dumb questions, that it is ok to ask anything. That loving invitation is met initially with a bit of hysteria from the parents, who resolve that the only thing to do is to deal honestly with the kids, and to keep reminding them (and themselves) that there are indeed, no dumb questions.

I am reluctant to say much more about the film; the surprises in it are all good surprises and deserve not to be spoiled. I'd recommend this film to anyone who is uneasy about transgender issues, of course, but I'd also recommend it to anyone who is trying to figure out how to talk with children about any topic that frightens grownups. The children model behavior for adults, here: they are open about their fears, their misgivings, and their hopes for Aunt Barbara. The parents do a remarkable job of supporting their children through the process of getting news that is out of the ordinary. Regan has made a film which takes on the delicate task of going inside the life of a family, and bringing the story out alive.

No Dumb Questions has won a number of awards: an honorable mention for Best Short Film at Sundance, and the Best Short Film Audience Award at the IFP Los Angeles Film Festival, among others. It's a great little film -- thumb's up.

Catch it if you can!


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