Posted by Tristan on:
A documentary about Native American concepts of gender and the murder of a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy.
Who should see this film:
Any one interested in social anthropology, GLBT issues, Native American culture and history, and human sexuality.
Beautifully shot and composed, Two Spirits tells the tragic story of a life lost to a hate crime, interlaced with a cultural history lesson.
Fred Martinez was a transgendered Navajo boy. In the Navajo tradition he was a Nádleehí or someone who possesses two spirits. As we learn the details of Fred’s life and death, the film takes us through traditional Native American ideas about gender and sexuality. The binary genders of man and woman are but two of the four genders recognized by the Navajo. Two Spirits also chronicles the systematic destruction of Native American culture by the colonial United States and the replacement of indigenous values with those of Christianity. The evangelized culture that resulted lost the concept of plural gender (along with countless other traditional ideas).
The films, director Lydia Nibley interviews Queer Native Americans from around the continent about their experiences growing up, and into their sexuality. Contrary to the mainstream western culture, it was the most traditional members of the community that encouraged and nurtured them.
Two Spirits is an important documentary illustrating that hate crimes have more victims than the person attacked, and gives faces to the family, friends, and communities affected by it. My one criticism is that the film does not distinguish between homosexual and transgendered. I got the sense that this may be because Martinez did not like to be labeled, and the Navajo idea of gender is more fluid than ours. Many people in the GLBT community would argue that it's important for the public to understand that homosexuality and transgender are different; each with their own specific issues-in addition to their common concerns.
Two Spirits is a nominee for this years Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film. There is also an educational outreach effort connected to this film through the Fred Martinez Project.