|Qfest Film Review: I Stand Corrected |
posted by Valerie Temple on Jul 23, 2012 10:00am | comments
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Valerie Temple is the Programming Manager of Bryn Mawr Film Institute,
as well as a filmmaker, video producer and writer whose work has
appeared on such sites as The Awl. This is her first Qfest and she is
super excited about it. You can follow her on Twitter or stalk her on Facebook.
This year, punk band Against Me! made national headlines when the groups' singer and guitarist (born Tom Gabel) publicly came out as transgender, with plans to begin a medical process to live as a woman and eventually take the name Laura Jane Grace. How will Laura's transition affect the future of the band she will continue to front? Laura's situation may be high profile but it is by no means unique, as seen in the new documentary I Stand Corrected, the uplifting story of transgender jazz musician Jennifer Leitham.
As a kid, John Leitham heard the Beatles and immediately became interested in playing music. Tapping into an extraordinary talent, the King of Prussia native quickly found success playing bass in a variety of jazz bands, most notably a long stint with the Mel Tormé Orchestra. But as John rose through the ranks of the jazz world, he felt more and more compelled to live life as his true self. Following sexual reassignment surgery in 2001, the left-handed musician reemerged as Jennifer Leitham who, though in a different form, is just as talented as ever. Using clips, interviews and still photographs, this well-crafted film documents her meteoric rise to prominence in the industry, and discusses the repercussions of her courageous life choice.
Although the majority of the film consists of interviews with Jennifer herself, the scenes with Doc Severinsen, legendary leader of the Johnny Carson-era "Tonight" show band, were a welcome addition. An early champion of Jennifer as she transitioned both personally and professionally, Severinsen assured the incomparable bass player that she would always have a place in his orchestra, no matter how she looked. "I hired you as a bass player, not as a male or a female," Severinson told her. Despite his promise, the transition process was still extremely difficult. However, this small gesture helped to convince Jennifer that, even with her change in appearance, playing music professionally could and should continue be a part of her life.
Severinson also bought some much needed levity to the film by recounting the time he kidded Jennifer about her "ugly" Mary Jane shoes. Jennifer, who attributes her love of Mary Janes to the fact that she missed out on wearing them as a child, takes the ribbing in stride and it is clear that there is a genuine affection between the two. As a self-confessed jazz dummy, I wish there were more of these relatable moments instead of the numerous mentions of jazz greats that went over my head, but real jazz aficionados will enjoy hearing about all of the luminaries who Jennifer has worked with. But even those uninitiated to the world of jazz will be entranced by this incredible story of a true musical force who, above it all, remains to true to herself.