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Akin screens in the Regent Park Film Festival

Chase Joynt mines his personal story, and his mother's, in Akin


The tenth Regent Park Film Festival, running from November 7-10, boasts not only a star panel featuring Clement Virgo and Atom Egoyan on its opening night, but also features a deeply engaging film by Chase Joynt. The personal documentary titled Akin, which  won the EP Canada/Canada Film Capital Award for Emerging Canadian Artist at the InsideOut Film Festival, recounts the backstory of an Orthodox Jewish woman and her transgender son. Joynt, a transman based in Toronto, is eager to talk about the film.

Brian Bantugan: What's the film's history?

Chase Joynt: When I started transitioning, it happened to be around the same time that my mom was converting from Christianity to Orthodox Judaism. Initially, I thought that such a combination was a recipe for a movie shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network; but when I actually started to make the film, I realized that the integral connection points of our relationship had very little to do with my transition or with her religion, but rather were found in our shared experiences of past violence.

How do you situate this film in your body of work?

Akin is strategically experimental. As a transperson, I look for various ways in which to construct narratives about identity that aren't being told by other media. I'm not really interested in telling straightforward narrative about my transition because I don't think any story about transitioning is that straightforward. I think violence is one of those topics that people often avoid for very good reasons, but violence is also a shared public narrative for many. I started making Akin from that shared place.

Are you able to separate your personal life from the kind of films you make?

Because I make non-fiction work about my life, it calls into question the specifics of who I am and why I make/do things. I believe that kind of public questioning and relationship making can be valuable and important. As an artist, I'd much rather be having conversations about stories I tell about myself rather than the stories that get told (or about) me by others.

How much of the violence you’ve experienced would you want to share to film viewers?

I’m very open about being a survivor of sexual violence – that said, the specifics of how, who, when, and where remain complicated ground for me to navigate. I think I’m constantly in process with how much of that is a public narrative and how much of that is private, and I assume that these things will continue to shift and change over time.

The film focuses on your past, how much of your present would we be seeing in your future films?

Who I am now is continually changing so I can only assume that my work will reflect such shifts. Seems like a simple answer, but I think it might be the only one! 

What’s your next project?

My next film project is called Stealth and is being made in collaboration with Alexis Mitchell. Without giving it all away, Stealth addresses various experiences of transgender bodies as they navigate the health care system and it uses my experiences (and some secret footage) as a narrative launching ground throughout.

What’s the critical thing about trans narratives?

That might be an unaswerable question as every trans narrative will be constructed differently and what is deemed "critical" will rightfully change. For me, the crucial part of any attempt at trans representation in art is the recognition of the breadth and scope of the project. There isn't just one story there isn't just one gender, there isn't just one truth, and there isn't just one way.

Is there a special moment in the film that you want viewers to watch out for?

Without making it seem like she paid me $5 to say this, the moments when my mom appears on screen remain amongst the most special to me.

Akin screens in the Regent Park Film Festival at 9:15pm on Fri, November 9 at the Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St E. No cover. regentparkfilmfestival.com

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