“The relationship between China and the U.S. is often fraught over disagreements on human rights and other issues. This insightful program follows former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as he relocates his family, including adopted daughter Gracie Mei, to China. Huntsman and family visit far- reaching areas in China, including Gracie Mei’s former orphanage, trying to interact with citizens as well as local leaders. His trips are carefully structured by the Chinese government and watched by “minders.” As Huntsman searches for diplomatic solutions to global problems, forces within China are seeking change. At the center of these protests is legal-advocate Chen Guangcheng, who wants existing laws to be enforced. Extensive interviews with Hunstman, Guangcheng, and other experts add depth to the coverage. Revealing yet never didactic, this 2015 copyright title will spark discussions on Chinese government policies and related topics.” Candace Smith
Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, is reportedly slated to be Donald Trump’s ambassador to Russia. Filmmaker Vanessa Hope’s documentary centers on Huntsman’s ambassadorship to China under Barack Obama from 2009-11, which was a natural fit since Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin (he was once a Mormon missionary in Taiwan). All Eyes and Ears also emphasizes the experience of his daughter Gracie Mei, an abandoned infant whom the Huntsmans adopted from a Chinese orphanage in 1999. Gracie returned to her Chinese homeland with her parents, and the film offers fly-on-the-wall footage both of the ambassador fulfilling the duties of his post—negotiating with leaders, interacting with people on the street, taking a trip to Tibet—and of Gracie reacquainting herself with the country of her birth. The juxtaposition of the political and the personal makes for a diverting portrait of a family in often challenging circumstances that they all handle quite deftly. One of the major demands of diplomatic service in China involves maintaining good relations with the government while also acknowledging protestors, a balancing act addressed here in the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind dissident jailed for bringing legal action against the regime’s one-child policy and kept under house arrest even following his release in 2010. Guangcheng eventually escaped, took refuge in the American embassy, and emigrated to the U.S.—although not until 2012, after Huntsman’s resignation. All Eyes and Ears sometimes feels like a panegyric, but it’s certainly an appealing portrait. Extras include additional scenes. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)
“This exquisitely done production uses the Ambassadorship of Jon Huntsman, Jr. to the People’s Republic of China (2009-2011) as a vehicle to look at a number of issues in contemporary China and its relationship with the United States. The main focus is on Huntsman’s adopted daughter, Gracie Mei, who was born in China. Gracie Mei’s origins often become a springboard to introduce the Ambassador to the Chinese – she is even welcomed to the orphanage where she spent her first few months of life. There are also a number of recent cameos of Gracie Mei in a recording studio where she comments on her experiences in China and how she views her experiences now. Ambassador Huntsman is fluent in Mandarin and it is a delight to see him interacting with various individuals in their native tongue. The producer/director of this film had amazing access to Ambassador Huntsman and we see an intimate portrait of the Huntsmans as they travel throughout the country meeting with various groups and individuals. Most of the talk pertains to trade, but military affairs, China’s emergence as a global power, and human rights, including Tibet, are also discussed/portrayed. Interspersed throughout the production are comments by a large number of scholars, “experts,” and activists. One of the latter, and the one with perhaps the most face time, is the blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng. All of this makes for an informative, and even entertaining, look at China.
Of the several productions that this reviewer has had the privilege of reviewing in the past few years, this is one of the most professionally rendered in terms of script along with visual and sound elements. Recommended for all libraries, but especially those that deal with China. ”
Even as a four-year-old boy, Coy gravitated toward feminine toys, colors, and behaviors. Initially reluctant, Coy’s parents let their child identify as a girl, but at school, the six-year-old is not allowed to use the girls’ washroom. With an impending court battle and with the assistance of a civil rights lawyer and child psychologist, the family goes public with their battle. In television and print interviews, the parents plead Coy’s case, with mixed responses. Some are supportive, but others in the conservative Colorado community where the family live accuse the parents of encouraging immoral actions. Talk-show hosts and audiences across the country argue the case in the media. Coy tires of the spotlight and becomes moody; parents and siblings deal with the fallout. This enlightening program does a good job showing the far- reaching effects of difficult parental decisions, underscoring the need for support and opening up discussions about how far parents should go to fight for the rights of their children. — Candace Smith
Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old transgender girl living in a conservative Colorado town, just wants to live a normal life. Her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn, are doing everything they can to help her. Filmmaker Eric Juhola’s Growing Up Coy documents their efforts to ensure that Coy’s school treats her like any other girl. Since Coy, born a boy, identified as a girl from an early age, they encouraged her to move in that direction, especially after their attempts to do otherwise were met with extreme discomfort. They also take her to a child psychologist and a support group, where they find more encouragement than judgment. At first, Coy’s school is supportive, but later decides that Coy can’t use the girl’s bathroom. Jeremy and Kathryn, who have four other children, then begin to home school the whole group. And they reach out to the Transgender Legal & Defense Education Fund in New York, which files a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, since discrimination against transgender people is illegal in the state. Fund founder Michael Silverman helps them prepare for the fight, beginning with a press conference, which leads to appearances on news programs across the world. Some pundits praise the family, others do not (CNN goes so far as to remove the more hateful comments from their website). But after awhile, the negative attention begins to grind the family down. Says Jeremy, “You shouldn’t have to move somewhere to have basic rights,” but circumstances will force their hand. The marriage suffers, but the case establishes a precedent that will benefit other transgender children in Colorado and beyond. A sobering documentary about the challenges and rewards involved in the transgender struggle for equal rights, this is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)
THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN examines the life and work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions to claim their own truth. Jennifer Kroot’s documentary about the creator of TALES OF THE CITY moves nimbly between playful and poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. With help from his friends (including Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen and Amy Tan) Maupin offers a disarmingly frank look at the journey that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of 70’s San Francisco to the front line of the American culture war.
In a highly conservative Colorado town, a pink-loving, pig-tailed six-year-old girl named Coy becomes the unlikely poster child for transgender rights, in a 2013 landmark case that is reverberating in state courts across the country. Although she was born as a boy in a set of triplets, Coy’s gender identity was evident even as a toddler, leading her parents, Kathryn and Jeremy, to accept her early on as the girl she wished to be. At first their school is very supportive, but midway through Coy’s first-grade year, they ban her from using the girls’ bathroom. Infuriated and fearing for their child’s safety, Kathryn and Jeremy decide to fight the school’s decision (which defies Colorado’s anti-discrimination law), despite the further attention they know it will draw to Coy’s gender status. They engage the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, led by civil rights attorney Michael D. Silverman, who take their case, and the international media firestorm it generates is fast and often extremely furious. For a family with five children under the age of nine—including the triplets, a very young child, and a daughter with severe cerebral palsy—the strain is enormous. Throughout Eric Juhola’s intimate documentary, we feel the fraught tension between Kathryn and Jeremy’s need to protect their privacy and their child’s innocence and the need to fight for Coy’s rights—as well as the rights of the “thousands of Coys out there.” Joanne Parsont, Framline
“***1/2. A sobering documentary about the challenges and rewards involved in the transgender struggle for equal rights, this is highly recommended. Video Librarian Read the full review here ” This enlightening program does a good job showing the far- reaching effects of difficult parental decisions, underscoring the need for support and opening up discussions about how far parents should go to fight for the rights of their children. ” Booklist Read the full review here
“The film could not be timelier, with transgender issues at the fore…” Cara Buckley, New York Times Read the full review “…beyond becoming an important historical document, the film provides unique insight into what anyone who dares to stand up for their rights must endure when their fight becomes public” Stephen Saito, The Moveable Feast
“A sympathetic, of-the-moment doc…” The Hollywood Reporter
“…urgent viewing…more than a simple advocacy film…” Nigel Smith, The Guardian