From January 4 through 31, the Gene Siskel Film Center celebrates the art of the documentary with its annual series Stranger Than Fiction: Documentary Premieres. This year, the theme of identity in its many meanings and permutations weaves through seven features and two shorts, as the subjects of these films explore what it means to be true to oneself, true to one’s values, and true to one’s dreams. The series kicks off with Israeli director Ofir Trainin’s Family In Transition, the story of a family living in a town near the Israeli-Lebanon border that makes a radical shift 20 years of marriage and four kids in, when husband Amit Tzuk comes out to wife Galit as a transgender woman. And while the announcement causes some ripples in the community and their extended family, the couple is still very much in love; they not only stay together but grow closer to each other and their children, who seem to fully embrace their two-mom household.
Unexpected issues crop up shortly after Amit’s gender confirmation surgery in Thailand, many having to do with Amit’s mental health during her physical recovery. The couple get remarried as women (Galit’s idea), surrounded by their offspring. Not long after the ceremony, the two begin to drift apart, and we get a sense of what their marriage was like for its first two decades, during which Galit says Amit was demanding, controlling and gave little attention to her wishes. More importantly, Family In Transition asks important questions about what happens when both halves of a couple want to alter their lives. If Amit has the right to expect the support of her family and friends during her transition, shouldn’t Galit as well, even though her life changes and new needs don’t require surgery?
With unfiltered access, director Trainin puts us in the middle of every discussion, argument and painful battle, and the result is, at times, quite brutal. The filmmaker refuses to pick sides, but I’m guessing audience members will have deep opinions about the reasons this marriage begins to crumble. The film never feels like it’s exploiting this family’s torment, but it certainly doesn’t shy away from laying it bare either. The movie is emotionally complicated, layered and balanced, as it lets all sides (including the children) have their say in the direction the family should or shouldn’t go. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this family, and thankfully the movie ends on a hopeful note as we say farewell.
The film will screen at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, Jan. 4 at 6:15pm; and Monday, Jan. 7 at 8pm.
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