Performance artist and writer Kate Bornstein explodes binaries while deconstructing gender—and her own identity.
Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger by Sam Feder
Performance artist and writer Kate Bornstein explodes binaries while deconstructing gender—and her own identity. Trans-dyke. Reluctant polyamorist. Sadomasochist. Recovering Scientologist. Pioneering gender outlaw. Sam Feder’s playful and meditative portrait on Bornstein, captures rollicking public performances and painful personal revelations as it bears witness to Kate as a trailblazing artist-theorist-activist who inhabits a space between male and female with wit, style and astonishing candor. Trailer for “Kate Bornstein Is a Queer & Pleasant Danger” from sam feder on Vimeo.
In the documentary portrait Kate Bornstein Is A Queer and Pleasant Danger, we see the many facets of this gender outlaw: author reading on her latest national book tour, performance artist in her one-woman show, friend visiting with former lovers and current confidants, long-term girlfriend sharing a New Year’s Eve dinner with her partner, and parent to a coterie of pets. Amidst a life full of love and kinship she is estranged from her daughter and grandchildren due to her renouncement of Scientology in 1980s.
Never a stranger to controversy or shy about confrontation, Kate reveals her tangles with everyone from Pope Benedict, who banned her books; to members of the trans community who reject her reclamation of the word “tranny.” Inventive animation featuring Kate’s Twitter account chronicle these scuffles and showcase her wit.
We also see Kate candidly sharing her process of aging. While her brain is sharp, and her sex life is vital, mortality is not abstract anymore: the prospect of death is real as she battles lung cancer.
Director Sam Feder followed Kate for three years, capturing intimate and public moments alike, and their friendship was the foundation that allowed for many of the film’s more candid and revealing moments. Yet still, Kate’s agency in making the film is clear: she has a lot to say and wants to be heard.
Using an instinctive, mosaic-like structure that combines animation, interviews, verite, and archival footage; the documentary defies the rigid confines of how the film portrait of a transgender icon should unfold. There is no linear chronology that dates back to her childhood and follows her through formative adult experiences. There is no voyeuristic explorations of her body, or recounting of the process of her transition. Rather, the film ping-pongs thematically, obeying an internal logic and following an organic rhythm. Kate is portrayed as a well-rounded individual who is not solely defined by her transgender status. The film’s emphasis is on Kate’s contributions to a larger conversation about gender whose goal is precisely to explode the gender binary and its accompanying narrow prescriptions.
Kate is a vibrant figure, who shows us that she is always growing. She’s embarking on new projects and embracing new technology, leaving old addictions and bad habits, and taking her place in the trans community as “Auntie Kate” while pushing for forward-thinking politics.
By turns meditative and playful, Kate Bornstein Is A Queer and Pleasant Danger invites us on a thought-provoking journey through Kate’s world to seek answers to some of life’s biggest questions.