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The Crack Magazine



Director: Jay Bedwani

Features: Donna Personna

British director Bedwani’s profile of septuagenarian Trans activist, artist and performer Donna Personna is unassumingly low-key but poignant and ultimately uplifting. Raised as Gus in 50s suburban San Jose, and subject to a strict Baptist upbringing, Donna was a target for bullies from a young age, but protected by an adored older brother. She became a beautician and found a new life when she moved to San Francisco where she was a habitué of trans-friendly café Compton’s, scene of the celebrated Compton’s Cafeteria Riot where members of the Trans community fought back against abusive cops. Present-day Donna is shown collaborating with playwright Mark Nassar on a dramatization of those events to be performed in the establishment. A sequence in which Donna talks to the younger drag artist playing a version of Donna in the play about their respective experiences reveals how attitudes have changed, and how coming out to family and friends is less fraught. Fascinatingly, Donna admits she didn’t perform drag until she was 59. It’s a gentle but quietly inspiring look at how one person was inspired by the strength of their convictions, finishing on a high note as Donna is feted at City Hall, then reunited with some of members of her estranged family.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm