Seattle International Film Festival movie review: 'The Most Dangerous Year'
Timely, personal and eye-opening, "The Most Dangerous Year" (world premieres at the 44th Seattle International Film Festival) takes a clear stance on a controversial issue - but more critically, it humanizes the hot button topic of gender identity and documents the community level fight for civil rights.
In short: In 2016, Washington state families with transgender children battle anti-trans rights sentiments and legislation.
The documentary is quite upfront with its agenda: director Vlada Knowlton begins the film by introducing her young transgender child, a girl with the aspirations of any girl her age. To the credit of the filmmakers, the film allows its detractors to make their case in their own words. Knowlton's film then takes a measured, but firm, effort to dismantle the arguments used to block protections for transgender citizens.
"Dangerous Year" boldly takes on the topic of gender identity - itself a complex area of study - and the film works as a solid primer for anyone who wants to know more about transgender issues but were too afraid to ask. For such an innately divisive topic, the documentary maintains a measured tone that impresses the personal concerns of the transgender community the drive the fight for transgender civil rights.
The strength of "Dangerous Year" is its quiet, unpoliticized moments: A little girl taking selfies. A little girl twirling and playfully dancing. The film does its due diligence in stating counterarguments against opponents of transgender rights - but the simple footage of transgender children playing is the strongest and most powerful statement the film makes. Knowlton's film presents its case for transgender rights - based on input from law enforcement, politicians and family members of transgender children - but its most compelling argument for equality is simply footage of transgender kids enjoying childhood like any other kid.
While the filmmakers interviewed supporters of transgender rights (doctors, politicians and community members), no opponent of transgender rights is featured in the same light. Their viewpoints are limited to appearances in public forms and media interviews. One prominent interviewee specifically states that opponents of transgender rights should be viewed as people. This is not to say that all viewpoints are inherently deserve equal "air time" - however any film of any subject matter that sits down with supporters of one argument while reducing the opposition to sound bytes is by definition not as strong as a film that directly confronts its opposition.
Final verdict: "Dangerous Year" might not change the mind of anyone already entrenched on one side of the transgender argument or the other - but it succeeds on humanizing the issue for those fighting anti-transgender legislation.
"The Most Dangerous Year" world premieres at the 44th Seattle International Film Festival. The documentary has a running time of 89 minutes and is not rated.