On November 8th, the Multimedia Room of the DiMenna Nyselius Library was filled with students, faculty, and staff who had gathered for a screening of the Academy-award winning film Boys Don’t Cry, followed by a discussion with director Kimberly Pierce. The event, “Reel Women Presents: Kimberly Peirce,” was sponsored by Reel Women, a student-faculty group devoted to the study and creation of media for, by, and about women. Before the screening, Dr. Elizabeth Haas, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, asked the audience to watch how the film in beautiful and harrowing details makes plain that LGTQ people, all people, deserve to be recognized for their full humanity.
Pierce, a slight figure flaunting a long leather coat and a rapid-fire speaking style, spoke passionately about her work and shared a generous spirit toward students, engaging them like peers. She was raised in a very interesting family, with divorced, young parents who both held strong ideals. In order to “escape” American society and pressures from her parents, she took a trip to Japan at only 19 years old and brought her camera with her. In Japan she taught English at Tokyo University and took photographs that she planned to have published. What she came to realize was that a single photo could never tell a full story, only a series could. This was the beginning of her film career. When she returned to the United States, she attended Columbia University’s graduate film program.
The origins of directing Boys Don’t Cry began at Columbia. As her graduate thesis project, she took on the story of young Brandon Teena, a transgendered teen who was raped and murdered in Falls City, Nebraska because of her sexual orientation. Pierce spent over three years developing the screenplay, visiting Falls City where she interviewed real-life Lana (Brandon’s love interest) as well as looking over all the case files and notes from the murder trial.
Pierce is highly attached to this movie, partially due to her own history with sexual abuse. When asked about the film, she stated, “I don’t remember the day Brandon was not my responsibility.”
Love, tragedy, pain, emotion, and power all come together in this mind-blowing and heart-dropping movie. Pierce says that she “never imagined success” and yet the first movie she ever directed became an Academy Award winner. She left her audience that night with this thought: “Life never stops. It is all about coming closer and closer to things that you are interested in and then coming back because you are never ‘there yet.’ There is always more right around the corner.”
Reel Women was able to host Kimberly Peirce with support from the Humanities Institute, Diversity Programs, Creative Life: Living and Learning Communities, English Department, Women’s Studies, the Alliance President, First Year Experience, University Activities, and Marketing and Communications.
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