In the yard of the Southwest Florida Juvenile Detention Center, two inmates hang upside-down from pull-up bars, pursuing the headrush or a change of scenery. So begins Julian Goldberger’s dissociative and dreamlike first feature, set in Fort Myers, his hometown, and starring a cast of boys rounded up from the local high school, his alma mater. After appearing at Sundance—where it was a favorite of Richard Linklater’s—and winning the Readers’ Jury Prize for Best Film at Berlinale, Trans receded from public view, its bold vision thought too risky by skittish distributors. This week, we’re pleased to revive it.
Ryan Kazinski looks very much like his fellow prisoners—jumpsuit, buzzcut, pimpled forehead—though he privately suspects he is an alien who has lost his way on Earth. He delivers desultory, diaristic narration from within his windowless cell and throws himself against its tiled walls. At least his kid brother can be counted on to slingshot the occasional contraband pack of cigarettes over the barbed-wire fence.
When the opportunity presents itself during roadside cleanup duty, the boys make a break for it, running headlong through the orange groves and into thrilling, if tenuous, freedom. Goldberger’s film makes the most of these two long days on the lam, following Ryan’s faltering perambulations—in too-large shoes—of the convenience stores and parking lots that comprise so much of the social world of the lower-class American South. His stolen t-shirt bears the name of the town’s upscale historical district, which of course we never see.
“It’s the kind of film that can only be made in your twenties. It feels like a first film; where you’re trying to shake off film-school dogma and forge new ground.” JULIAN GOLDBERGER
Shooting in 16mm and Super 8, Goldberger demonstrates loose but confident handheld camerawork, interweaving musical passages with the extemporized dialogues of strangers, composing elegant chiaroscuros by streetlight. Elliptical passages give way to non-sequitur vignettes of local color while somewhere not far off a hunter stalks its prey. The outlaw’s face is fixed in a shiftless smile, knowing he lives on borrowed time.
Julian Goldberger is the director of two feature films, Trans and The Hawk Is Dying (2006), which have screened at such festivals as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, New Directors/New Films, and Berlin. Goldberger records music under the moniker Eulipion Corps. He is currently writing a science-fiction feature.
Text written by Maxwell Paparella. Special thanks to John Zhao for making this screening possible.
- Credits for
- Ryan Daugherty, Justin Lakes, Jon Daugherty, Michael Gulnac, Elijah Smith, Charles Walker, Jeremiah Robinson, Vince Kelly, Edge Edgerton & Stephanie Davis
- story by
- Julian Goldberger, Michael Robinson & Martin Garner
- Fat Mama & Her Trans World Orchestra
- produced by
- Michael Robinson
- Jesse Rosen
- Affonso Gonçalves
- production design
- Sarah Wagoner