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Twin Falls,
Montana

Twin Falls,
Montana

Redwithoutblue

Mark and Alex were identical twins who did everything together, including attempting suicide. But when Alex decided to become Clair their whole world splintered. The new documentary Red Without Blue gets it on film.

Early in the documentary Red Without Blue, Jenny, the mother of identical twins Mark and Clair, tells the camera, "I don't think of them as my children. They're just young people I know." After decades of shock filmmaking, only honesty like this can still startle us. The film--which won the audience award for best documentary at this year's Slamdance Film Festival and premieres this June on Sundance Channel--is full of such moments. Revealing, visually layered, and completely engaging, it's also a heart-wrenching emotional ride.

Mark and Clair began life in Missoula, Mont., as Mark and Alex, twins so indistinguishable their mother had to dress Mark in red and Alex in blue. Their childhood was happy. The home movies incorporated in the film show them as beaming towheaded boys, but as we eventually discover, their parents' divorce, the twins' heavy drug use, and their victimization by a pedophile took a toll. Alex's decision to come out in seventh grade inadvertently dragged Mark out of the closet too. Twins to the end, they tried to kill themselves with carbon monoxide poisoning. At age 14 they were sent to separate boarding schools for troubled teenagers, and when they finally saw each other again after two years apart, Alex told Mark he was becoming Clair.

For Mark, Clair's transition wasn't just a rejection of her birth gender but of her twin, her second self. Their twinship offers an incredibly poignant externalization of the process of self-questioning.

The filming of Red Without Blue, which began when the twins were 21 and lasted 21/2 years, became part of a healing process. "We came together as a family on camera in Montana," says Mark. "Watching the footage from this trip, back in San Francisco, I heard things from both my mother and sister that I had never heard. The film gave us a tool to communicate with each other as well as to hear ourselves."

As one of the film's directors, 26-year-old Brooke Sebold--who was once Mark's roommate--sums up Red Without Blue as not "the typical, objective, arm's-length documentary." Mark, a visual artist, was given a camera so that he could record intimate footage of himself and his boyfriend, Dave, and of Clair in surgery. "Because Mark and Clair were constantly watching progressive cuts of the film," Sebold explains, "they actually heard for the first time how much their actions had hurt their mother, Jenny, but they were also able to witness her progression from anguish to ultimate acceptance of her children. In the end we captured a story that celebrates a family's journey toward acceptance of one another, but for a long time, we didn't think that would be the case."

Clair now lives near Mark and his boyfriend in San Francisco and works at a nonprofit LGBT youth center. A shy person off-camera, Clair is relieved that the film is complete. She says, "It gives me a sense of closure."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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