Joychild: Aurora Brachman’s doc makes New Yorker debut

(The tender film about a child announcing gender debuts today)

In Aurora Brachman’s MFA thesis film, a young child tells their mother, “I’m not a girl,” for the first time. This documentary short Joychild shares a story of an 8-year-old who comes out as transgender and premieres to the public via The New Yorker as part of their Documentary Video Series today.

In this intimate portrait of growing up gender-expansive, Brachman beautifully captures the hesitancy, fear, and relief at revealing one’s innermost thoughts, as well as the unconditional love of a mother.

This vulnerable, open-hearted, safe bond between a parent and a child’s self-discovery is something Brachman admitted was “hard to come by, but I hope this unconditional love dynamic can be cathartic and healing for others who both did and didn’t have that experience.” 

Beyond gender identity and fluidity, Brachman explores the power of listening and holding space for another human’s vulnerabilities, existence, and truest self.

The audience is able to bear witness to the magic that happens when we love someone and in turn give them the safety and comfort to be themselves. This film is that safe space where that magic occurs.

Aurora Brachman knows a thing or two about what it takes to create a safe place both psychologically and creatively. This very recent Stanford MFA film graduate also studied psychology in undergrad, which is evident in her process as a filmmaker.

She even used a therapy technique called “relational savoring” in which the individual is asked to relive and retell a beautiful memory from a relationship- in this case, a child/ parent dynamic.

Her intention for this project and her work in general is to “understand myself and others more deeply.” The desire to explore gender identity is close to her heart as her partner came out as trans and she “loved and understood them through their process.” 

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Brachman’s very personal experience sparked the inspiration to shed light on this process and what an unconditional love experience looks like and could look like for a child. She explains to Reel 360,” my motivation was to create a blueprint— a safe haven— for what a loving coming out experience can look like. I hope this film can bring healing.”  

Aurora Brachman

As a documentary filmmaker Brachman leads like a Shepard to her audience —never controlling, always gently guiding— the same way the parent in the film Shepards the child on their exploration of self. She is also in favor of “inviting accidents to be the co-director.”  For example, the bird in the cage the child was so fond of was not planned in the narrative but served as a powerful metaphor in letting oneself out of captivity.

Brachman is creating a new way of documentary filmmaking that had a gentleness versus a exploitation. It’s a radical thing to reappropriate a medium in a nurturing fashion that in the past has often been used to exploit.

The filmmaker and people like her are reclaiming this medium to tell their own stories. She asks the question in her genre. “How do we make a documentary in a way that is constructive rather than extractive?”

With the safe haven Brachman constructs on her sets, on the screen, and within her life, she answers her own question…

Look out for this passionate documentarian who is next set to  associate produce a documentary for A24…

Her film Joychild makes its universal debut and is now available to watch via The New Yorker as part of their Documentary Video Series.

Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.