Diving for Pearls
Director and cinematographer Jessica Dimmock’s acclaimed documentary, The Pearl, follows the journey of four middle aged trans women as they step bravely out of the closet and begin their transition.
This extraordinary tale has been described as an “Annie Proulx short-story cycle come to life." Yet it was serendipity that first set Dimmock, who is renowned for her work as photojournalist, on the path to chronicle these women’s lives.
“A few years ago, I went hiking in the small town that the Esprit conference, which you see in the beginning of the film, takes place. I randomly got one of the last rooms in a large motel and found that I had walked into a conference of about 150 senior transgender women.”
Dimmock says she soon realised that a lot of what she knew about trans women was incorrect – especially for trans women making the transition later in life.
“The women I met had lived a life of utter secrecy and over-compensation, and had painted extremely masculine identities onto their persona. But they knew deep down who they were, they had always known who they were, and they were bravely stepping out for the first time in their lives.”
Dimmock decided to train her camera on the women and spent the next several years capturing their day-to-day lives.
“I’m always interested in what the rather mundane parts of people's lives look like, because I think this is when you see them in their most intimate (moments). In a lot of ways, the types of things we relate to intimacy – being around for a big life moment, say – are very punctuated and a-typical parts of people's lives. But the driving around in your car, or watching TV alone, that is what so much human life is made of, so when you want audiences to connect with people, I think these moments are very important.
There has been a lot of talk about the cult of passability – but for the trans women in Dimmock’s film, transitioning so late in life – passing is not an option, nor is it ultimately what they want, instead Dimmock suggests they simply desire love and acceptance.
“Ultimately the film is not about a group of people becoming women, but instead explores the idea of what it means to leave behind living as a man. A lot of the trans stories that populate our feeds are about the very young or the very passable. Those things usually go hand in hand, actually.
“When you've lived into your 60s with testosterone going through your system, you are going to have a lot of very male things about you, including looks. But the women of my film want the same things as the young trans women. It's what we all want: love and acceptance and the ability to be ourselves. This older group has a ton to lose but they deserve this just as much as anyone.”
Watch the trailer
THE PEARL screens on Saturday 18 February, 1pm at Event Cinemas, George Street as part of Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival. Buy Tix Now: