Frankie is a deeply personal love letter of a film from director Jame Kautz to lead actor Morgan Ruaidhrí O’Sullivan. The result is Kautz’s LGBT live-action short film Frankie which focuses on a non-binary transgender person who comes out to their ex-partner and his men’s codependency group.
When Kautz’s long-time partner and creative collaborator Morgan Ruaidhrí O’Sullivan came out as non-binary, the writer and filmmaker wanted to create work where O’Sullivan could be their truest self on screen.
While the titular character of Frankie, embodied by O’Sullivan is non-binary, Frankie is at its core a film about the universal issue of codependency where the character just happen to be trans/non-binary.
The rampant issue of codependency in romantic relationships transcends gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In this portrait of codependent, a non-binary trans person crashes their ex-partner’s men-only 12-step meeting, determined to be heard… no matter the cost.
Any person—despite how they identify— who has a codependent desire to be understood and goes to great lengths to do so, will relate to this human dilemma. Watch the trailer below:
Because of his own experiences in 12-step Al-Anon meetings, Kautz was inspired to set the film in a 12-step meeting setting because of the vulnerability those rooms allow to take place.
The director recalled his own history to Reel 360, “It was the first time I saw cisgender men publicly expressing their vulnerable feelings, something cisgender men normally will do just about anything to hide and avoid.”
The consequences of men —and people in general— repressing their feelings is a reoccurring theme in Kautz’s work. “I am very interested in exploring the consequences of people who refuse to face who they really are, the consequences of a repressed soul. I want to explore the root causes of what represses the femininity, the sensitivity, and the vulnerability in all of us, but especially in cisgender men and in turn, the fascinating legacy of toxic masculinity,” Kautz said.
The moral of this film is that a tormented and repressed self doesn’t have to be the only way, as it has in the past. As we enter a new era, in which the world is collectively and publicly embracing and accepting humans in all their many different forms, we are still battling old suffocating archetypes.
This is a monumental moment in time where we are seeing people of different sexualities, colors, ages, and sizes on billboards in places they once were hidden from sight. The Marlboro Man is nowhere to be found and his archetype of toxic masculinity is beginning its extinction, but the death of toxic masculinity will ultimately be at the hands of men.
Kautz explains, “We are what we learn from our fathers and what we teach to our sons, and it seems that archetype of toxic masculinity and a repression of femininity is changing.”
Kautz’s hope for this film is that “People watch Frankie and empathize with someone who they normally would not.”
Through Kautz’s own nuanced journey in as the founder of Red Seed Films and the founding Artistic Director of the award winning Off Broadway Theatre Company, The Amoralist, his goal with all of his work is to create the kind of safe spaces where actors feel uninhibited enough to crack open their sternums and open their hearts.
With this kind of creative process, he wants his films to inspire healing for all those repressing their soul in any way, especially those who identify as trans-non-binary. Kautz longs to shine a light on the truth that, “recovery is possible, healing is possible, and being accepted for who you truly are is possible.”
Frankie marks the beginning of the journey of the recovery of a shattered soul, which Kautz is currently working to turn into a feature…
This powerful film just screened at this year’s Oscar-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival.
Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.