News

Cinemax Documents a Lurid Tale

7/25/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

Female friends of Brandon Teena raved that he knew what
women wanted. They raved about his consideration and kindness. But when it was revealed
that he knew so much about women because he was one, those same friends turned on that
sexually confused individual.

The Brandon Teena Story, part of Cinemax's "Reel
Life" documentary series, follows the young woman's path after she fled her hometown
of Lincoln, Neb., to tiny Falls City, Neb.

She chose the socially retarded, demolition-derby-watching
kind of town as the location to reinvent herself from Teena Brandon to a man named Brandon
Teena. She peacefully existed on the edge of society until she was prosecuted for petty
crimes and "outed."

Her former friends turned on her and dropped her pants at a
Christmas Eve party to prove her gender once and for all to her disbelieving girlfriend.
She was later raped by two former male friends, who ended up killing her in an effort to
prevent their felony prosecution.

The documentary slowly and visually creates the time and
place where Teena created her life and, unfortunately, contributed to the circumstances
that led to her death.

You come to realize, through the film, that her lifestyle -- which included committing
petty crimes, rather than getting a job to support herself -- contributed to the
incredulity that her cry of rape was met with.

No one should suffer that indignity, but given the
less-than-enlightened nature of the town, her criminal past gave judgmental officers the
excuse they needed to dismiss her pain.

The most heartrending segment includes the tape of a barely
audible Teena giving her report to a local sheriff who, through the tenor of his
questioning, makes it clear that he believes the victim is lying about her virginity and
the nonconsensual nature of the attack.

Directors Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir skim the fine
line between informative and lurid exploitation. The survivors -- including Teena's
girlfriend, the murderers and family members -- are allowed to tell their own stories,
which add up to the painful whole.

The ending has a disconcerting, "life-goes-on"
quality about it, as it shows Teena's girlfriend out line-dancing with a sister of one of
the murderers.

The Brandon Teena Story debuts July 26 at 11 p.m. on
Cinemax.

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