RiverRun Film Festival Screens Personal Documentary

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RiverRun Film Festival Screens Personal Documentary by Carrboro Filmmaker “Ties That Bind” is a complex family story filmed over a span of 14 transformational years

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

Sometimes your career choice can offer unexpected benefits. You could call it serendipity. For Diana Newton, her work with a consulting company providing leadership development included writing and producing videos. She never thought it would also be her pathway to producing a personal documentary about her family’s journey wrestling with each other and their beliefs.

After taking several film classes at Duke University, Diana began working on her first film, “The Ties That Bind,” which will be shown at RiverRun Film Festival on April 4 at Hanesbrands Theatre and April 5 at SECCA.

When asked how she decided to tell this personal story, she replied, “I didn’t seek out the story; the story came to me.” In 2002, her youngest sibling came out as transgender. Diana knew she had to tell this story, not only for her sibling, but to give a face and voice to others going through this incredibly emotional period of their lives.

Diana presented the idea to her sibling and both she and her spouse were immediately onboard with it. Her sibling had felt invisible for so long and she felt this would be a way for her to be seen as who she really was. Diana consulted with their other siblings who also agreed to be filmed. One of the reasons they agreed to be part of Diana’s documentary is that they were “so involved in their own navigating this new experience.” They also struggled with biblical issues since their father had been a Baptist minister. One of the central stories of the film was deciding when – or if – they would tell their 77-year-old mother. They wanted to protect her, especially since their father had recently died. Being the wife of a minister, they knew religion would play a big part in her response.

The filming began initially in 2003, but from 2006 – 2013, the story took a backseat to Diana’s work demands. At the same time, her mother started down the path of Alzheimer’s. With this added stress in her family’s life, Diana became apprehensive about what affect her sibling’s coming out would have on their family. She knew she would be “pulling back the curtain” on their family at a time when her mother also needed their support.

Diana commented, “It became harder to not make this film than to fear going through with finishing it. I thought it would help our family, and hopefully other families, be more authentic with each other. This was the time to do it.” The transgender movement was also getting national attention, and House Bill 2 was in the forefront of the news in North Carolina.

Showing the final cut to her family brought on many emotions: discomfort, joy, tears. But there was a sadness, too; although the film showed her mother’s reaction to her sibling’s revealing of the truth of her gender, her mother died before seeing the final film.

Having this film selected to be screened at RiverRun Film Festival is a great honor for Diana, and she hopes that the result will be a better understanding of the transgender community and a willingness to accept the people we love the most for whom they really are, not just what keeps us comfortable. Is this the beginning of a new career in filmmaking for Diana? She isn’t sure.

“This was the film I needed to make. I may not make another one. But who knows? You never know what story may come to you.”

For more information on “The Ties That Bind,” visit www.tiesthatbindmovie.com or contact Diana Newton at diana@nullfallingapples.com.

RiverRun Film Festival runs March 31 – April 9. For a film schedule, visit www.riverrunfilm.org.

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