When I received the request to review the short film “Joychild,” I looked at the trailer and it gave me nothing to go on, however, my interest was piqued, and I asked to see the film.
After watching the film three times, I had to speak with the Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer Aurora Brachman. Aurora is a recent graduate of the MFA program in Documentary Film at Stanford University and is a 2020 Sundance Ignite Fellow.
Her work, “Joychild,” is a six-minute short film that focuses on an eight-year-old who comes out as transgender to their mother. Yep, I hear you thinking, “How does an eight-year-old know who or what they are?” After listening to this beautiful, intelligent conversation between this mother and child a light bulb went off and I got it.
Aurora explains, “I think it’s almost kind of silly to think, how would a child not know who they are? We all have an understanding of ourselves from when we’re very little. So, I feel so privileged to have gotten to meet this parent and child, and witness that brilliance, and also witness their mother’s love and patience. She says so little, but it means so much that she gives her child that space to express themselves.
I asked Aurora if the conversation was scripted, and she told me it absolutely wasn’t and she was just as surprised at how spontaneous, vulnerable, and emotional it became.
As I continue to write this, I will refer to the child as they, them, their as the use of his/her is not what they identify as. In fact, the title of the film, “Joychild” comes from a conversation with a Mother Aurora shared with me.
“She has a gender-expansive child who identifies as non-binary, so not a boy or a girl. So, she told me that instead of calling the child son or daughter, she would call her Joychild, because it was her gender-neutral term for her kid. I thought that that was such a sweet phrase to use, Joychild was just… It was so beautiful, it was so sweet, and so I chose to name the film Joychild.’’
Please do not feel that the child is not aware of life and thinks it is all rainbows and sunshine. In the conversation with their mother, they express themselves with the understanding that they might not always be accepted in the world, and that it is a difficult thing, but how important it is to live in their truth, and their ability to discuss their own feelings of confliction. In fact, just when I was getting into this mature conversation reality hits when wondering what life is going be for them when they say, “I’m just a kid, how am I supposed to know?”
As I was watching the film, I was drawn most to the reaction of the mother during the conversation. She is so patient and really listened to what her child was saying without interruption or trying to over encourage. She just listened, responded, and supported.
Now, I understand that a few of you reading this may or may not agree with the subject matter but when I expressed to Aurora that I think it goes beyond the subject, she agreed, “I think to a certain degree, it’s like we don’t need to understand, you don’t need to fully be able to understand what that feels like. But I think that you can listen, and you can respect it. You might not be able to understand what the experience of being trans is like, but I think when you listen to this child’s voice, you can understand the feelings that they are going through. Those feelings, I think, are very resonant with anyone who has faced some kind of challenge like this. So yeah, listening more and just saying, “I love you, I believe you, and I support you.”
In watching the film, you may find the visual a little confusing. While the conversation you are hearing is between one child and mother, there are other children in the film that are gender expansive. The first time I saw it I thought it may be the same child at different times. Other than that, I found it eye-opening.
JOYCHILD will be available to the public in June and will be released by the New Yorker. The New Yorker has a documentary series, it will be publicly available online.
I give it 4 out of 5 Winks.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky.
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