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The Brandon Teena Story (Collector's Edition) - documentary DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Kate Bornstein, JoAnne Brandon, John Lotter, Tom Nissen, Brandon Teena, Lana Tisdel
Director: Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir   Distributor: New Video Group
DVD release: 09 June 2008   Runtime: 88 min. (1 disc)
Format: Collector's Edition, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 - English)

The Brandon Teena Story may seem familiar to you if you've seen Kimberly Pierce's Boys Don't Cry. Brandon Teena was a biological female in his early 20s, living as a man.

I'll refer to Brandon as he; that's what he would have preferred. Brandon was no saint. He'd been in trouble with the law in Lincoln, Nebraska, for forging checks before moving to Falls City in southern Nebraska. Brandon made some friends and was popular with the girls (as he didn't treat them like dirt). He was dating Lana Tisdel, and they were happy - he didn't put pressure on her like other guys. He bought her gifts of perfume and flowers: the perfect boyfriend. Seemed to know what a woman wanted somehow. Eventually he got caught forging checks and was sent to jail. When Lana went to bail him out, she found him housed in the female section of the jail.

Brandon told Lana and others that he was a pre-op transsexual. He had told different people different things as to his gender classification. Friends and drinking buddies Tom Nissen and John Lotter wanted to get to the bottom of the matter and, at a Christmas Eve party, they forced Brandon to show them evidence of his gender. They then took Brandon to a remote location and raped him. After Brandon went to the police, Nissen and Lotter decided to do away with Brandon to keep from going back to jail. On New Year'S Eve, they killed Brandon and two other people at a remote farmhouse, leaving a 9-month-old on his own.

This story was chilling when dramatized in Boys Don't Cry, but it seems more chilling related to us through the interviews of those who knew Brandon. Filmmakers Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir do an excellent job of getting to know these people, and they get some wonderful interviews from these small-town people ordinarily closed to outsiders. They talk to Brandon's relatives, ex-loves, friends, associates, and killers. While we may never know exactly how it happened, we know Brandon a little better at the end. Brandon's memory lives on forever in this excellent film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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