Program 38: Changing the GameDirected by Michael Barnett
Leaping into the national controversy surrounding what’s “right” for youth sports and transgender athletes, Michael Barnett directs a powerful and intimate documentary examining the hurdles that demand to be confronted in the lives of Mack Beggs, Sarah Rose Huckman, and Andraya Yearwood. These transgender teens are each forced to maneuver the rules set by the governing bodies of their states for high school sports and sadly they are forced to cope with taunts, bias, and blatant bullying from detractors who mean to deter them from competing as themselves in the sports that they love. Ultimately their stories are uplifting and full of courage and resilience but this film can be difficult as we’re exposed to the no-holds-barred reality of misgendering, name-calling, and transphobic slurs (most often from adults) meant to marginalize and “other” these teens and trans folks in general.
It’s always disturbing to witness unfettered bias and bullying, especially when directed toward youths. Fortunately the overriding message of this film counters those disheartening attacks with the encouraging voices of family members, coaches, faculty, and allies. The important differences that accompany having supportive individuals in the lives of transgender youths become strikingly evident even when some of those voices are still “learning the ropes.”
Beggs and Yearwood have been under the spotlight of national controversy over the past two years; Beggs having been forced to wrestle against girls despite his desire to compete against boys and Yearwood facing hostility for being permitted to run on the high school girls team as a transgender girl. Huckman may be less well-known nationally, but the 17-year-old cross country skier was instrumental in the promotion of New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination bill (HB1319) which updated state law to include the protection of transgender persons in the areas of housing, employment, and use of public places.
Despite the film’s more difficult segments, the importance of its overriding messages of strength and encouragement, reinforced by the component of endurance in the face of adversity, provides stirring and victorious examples of Changing the Game.
~ Jennifer Morgan
Awards & Accolades
- Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature – Frameline SF Int’l LGBTQ+ Film Festival
- Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature – Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival
- Jury Award, Best Documentary – aGLIFF All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival (Austin)
- Audience Award, Best Documentary – Damn These Heels LGBTQ Film Festival (Salt Lake City)
- Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival