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‘Transition’ Sheds Light on Trans Filmmaker’s Bold Journey into the Taliban’s World!

“Transition,” where journalism meets bravery and borders blur in the heart of Afghanistan, In this ground-breaking documentary, Australian filmmaker Jordan Bryon takes us on a thrilling journey as he embeds with the Taliban, providing a rare glimpse into a volatile landscape.

This film, directed by Monica Villamizar and Bryon himself, promises to upend stereotypes and spark debate. With its premiere approaching, excitement is reaching new heights.

Transition is produced by Villamizar and funded by AGC Unwritten and Our Time Projects. Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land”), an Academy Award-nominated documentary director, is executive producing alongside Stuart Ford, Lourdes Diaz, Joel Zimmer, BJ Levin, Sebastian Hernandez, Juan Manuel Betancourt, and Joedan Okun.

Transition premiered to critical and audience acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival and was an official selection at Sheffield DocFest, the Sydney Film Festival, the Human Rights Film Festival in Berlin (where it won the audience award), and the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Bryon is a BAFTA-winning journalist and filmmaker who has also won an Emmy and the Human Rights Award. His debut feature documentary, “Birds of the Borderlands,” was filmed in Jordan and screened at twelve international film festivals.

Bryon’s story is part of a growing body of work exploring the transmasculine experience, including Nicolò Bassetti’s touching Berlin documentary Into My Name and Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s captivating drama Mutt.

In a world determined to deprive trans people of basic rights and humanity, these stories provide an opportunity to reflect on the depths, breadth, and differences of this experience.

Transition stays so close to Bryon, only taking a brief break to consider the implications of his own admissions.

For the documentary filmmaker, Afghanistan was, ironically, a refuge from the constricting labels he wished to escape: “When I moved here, those things did not follow me,” he says. “Afghanistan welcomed me.” 

There is no doubt that Bryon felt liberated by the country’s anonymity: “Leaving what you know and who knows you are a gift in terms of self-discovery”. However, it is not accessible to all.

Bryon spends a lot of time with Teddy and photojournalist Kiana Hayeri discussing keeping secrets from the Taliban unit, his obligation to come out as trans to people in a conservative Muslim society, and the rights he has as a man in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan.

These conversations are interesting because they allow us to better understand Bryon’s position in the country. Hayeri counters Bryon’s argument by stating that he is not only a man but also a foreigner.

One wonders if Transition would have benefited from paying more attention to that final point. Bryon, a white Australian national and filmmaker, is met with suspicion and curiosity. The scene in which Taliban unit members photograph him confirms his status as an outsider.

Jordan Bryon

What does Bryon’s position imply in a country whose current regime is seeking international diplomatic recognition? That initiative does not mitigate the dangers that the filmmaker, his friends, and colleagues face.

However, it does demonstrate how his precarious situation is aided at least marginally by the access and freedoms provided by his passport.

Further exploration or recognition of that context may have forced the doctor to gesture at — if not necessarily explain in detail — how Bryon can get hormone shots in Afghanistan and top surgery in Iran, procedures that appear, from my limited vantage point, out of reach for the average queer Afghan.

These are the messy, intertwined issues that Transition could have addressed in addition to the moral quandaries confronting each of its subjects.

The documentary provides some insights. When Bryon spends time with Taliban members, there is a palpable tension, and viewers can eavesdrop on interesting conversations among the group that call into question their ideology.

At one point, a Taliban figure states that there is more to being a man than having a beard, revealing the freedom granted to men but not to women, whom the regime has effectively barred from living freely.

The transition also includes some extraordinary footage that adds to our understanding of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Abandoned planes on deserted runways, rows of shuttered businesses, and empty parking lots are just as haunting here as they were in In Her Hands (for which Bryon worked as a cinematographer) and Bread and Roses, which premiered at Cannes last month.

These glimpses of Afghanistan are expertly integrated into footage of Bryon’s personal life. Bryon was on assignment while filming Transition, working on a feature film that was nearing completion.

Even when the documentary falls short of its ambitions and potential, it serves as a preview of the director’s exciting work.

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