Dir.: Christian Sonderegger; Documentary; France/USA 2017, 78 min.
Christian Sondereggers’s feature length documentary debut COBY is not only an intimate portrait of a transgender man’s journey, but also a testimony to the support he gets from his family, who live in the small village of Chagrin Falls in Ohio.
When she was twenty-one, Suzanna Hunt decided that she would undergo a sex change process, since she “was not happy with what she saw in the mirror – it was not what I expected”. S/he took the name of Coby during the medical/psychological changing process, before settling for Jacob after the successful transformation. We meet Jacob, working as a paramedic in an ambulance, administering help to a stricken baby with his fellow workers. But more surprising than Jacob’s successful progress, is the role his family played in all the upheavels. His parents, Ellen and Williard, and his brother Andrew are interviewed at length, and it turns out that Jacob’s parents were anything but the average village people. They home-schooled their children, there was no TV, and they lived a life of tolerance as Christians. This tolerance was tested by Suzanne early on, the family had to adjust to the many stages Suzanne/Jacob went through, including a lesbian phase, which is recalled with smiles by all concerned.
Jacob is proud to be accepted as man not only by his family, but also his co-workers. But he is honest about the changes in his reactions: before he took testosterone, he would tear up in sympathy when his girl friend Sarah had emotional problems – but now he is much more reserved. ”When I have problems, I react like a gorilla”. But he still has the memories of 21 years as a woman, so he is still able to talk with female colleges in a different way as the other male workers. All in all “I don’t feel like a woman, but feel good in my femininity as a man.” As for the future, since Sarah does not want to bear children, Jacob is the only parent to be able to procreate, and he is taking all medical precautions to keep this possible open.
As for his father, the “memories of him as a girl fade slowly, being replaced by new ones of him as a man”, a process his brother agrees with. As Jacob says “I was born into the right family”. Coby is told in a simple, but not simplistic manner, somehow very close to the way the Hunt family lives: avoiding drama and ruptures, but caring for each other in a truly Christian way. They are in a way the real ‘Anti-Trump’ family: overcoming ‘otherness’ in their family with love, understanding and patience, just understanding without any dogma.
COBY IS PLAY IN THE ACID SIDEBAR | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 17-28 MAY 2017