By Don Simpson | September 11, 2015
Director: Hillevi Loven
Hillevi Loven’s documentary Deep Run follows Cole, a transgender young man living in rural North Carolina. Faced with many obstacles to achieving happiness, Cole’s unwavering faith in the Christian God and his love for his girlfriend Ashely keep him going. Cole wants nothing more than to be accepted by his mother, community and church for what he is; but, unfortunately, no amount of love, loyalty, kindness and devoutness can make his surrounding environment any less hostile toward him.
On top of all that, Cole cannot get a legitimate job until his gender transition is complete. That puts a lot of pressure on his relationship with Ashley who is left with no other choice but to support Cole. It is frustrating as a viewer to watch Cole struggle so much to find happiness, especially since money (or lack thereof) seems to be the root of most of his problems. Money would allow Cole and Ashley the opportunity to move somewhere that is more accepting of transgender people, and that place would most likely offer a church that could provide Cole with the spiritual element that he wants in his life. Money would also help cover the medical expenses to expedite Cole’s transition, so he can legally find employment as a man.
It is equally tormenting to observe as Cole is met with rejection by one church after another. His relentless dedication to a religion that ostracizes him seems almost like psychological self-flagellation; as if the repeated rejection helps Cole mature and evolve as a Christian. Deep Run definitely reveals the downside of organized religion, while promoting a more personal approach in its place.
While the LGBT community in the United States has taken some significant steps towards equality in the last few months, Deep Run shows that there is still a long way to go, especially for the transgender population. For better or worse, Caitlyn Jenner has certainly helped bring gender transitioning into the mainstream, but we need more films like Deep Run and Boy Meets Girl, which normalize their transgender subjects and provide protagonists who are undeniably likable and relatively average.
Deep Run screens as part of the 28th annual Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF). For more information, check out the aGLIFF Program.