Images courtesy of Raising Zoey.
With the Long Beach LGBTQ Film Festival (QFilms) right around the corner, set to celebrate its opening night this Thursday, the Long Beach Post has been given the opportunity to view and review a few of the films ahead of time so you can get a feel for what to expect. And there’s always something new to learn through the creative vision of the inspired filmmakers that make this festival great.
Raising Zoey is the story of a transgender girl who knew before she was sent to preschool who she was. While Zoey Luna’s identity was difficult for her late father who, at the time, was unable to accept or understand his son’s obsession with barbie dolls and high heels over X-Men action figures, the rest of Zoey’s family, namely her mother, older sister and brother support her through and through.
After Zoey endures relentless teasing and bullying at school, from both students and teachers, her mother Ofelia Barba was shocked to hear that instead of addressing the issue, school administrators wanted her daughter to leave, giving her a week to decide between expulsion or leaving on her own. A determined Ofelia knew this kind of response wasn’t right and began scouring the Internet for ways she could fight the intolerant and near-sighted decision. With the help of her mother and the ACLU, Zoey was able to fight for her right to be herself in an institution that didn't want to accept her.
Scene after scene, the documentary shows how the unwavering support of Zoey’s mother, as well as the support of her siblings, paves the way for her to transition smoothly, albeit her difficult time at school. The family is also willing to come together to financially support Zoey’s medical needs throughout her transition. And although there are moments of discomfort for everyone, Zoey’s family understands it’s a life or death matter for the teen, and faces those moments with a consideration for the bigger picture and out of pure love for one of their own.
In particular, one scene takes place at a vigil for Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who committed suicide in 2014, blaming her parents in a suicide note for refusing to acknowledge her identity as a girl. One attendee of the vigil, also attended by Zoey and Ofelia, is shown speaking to the small crowd gathered, and says a few words that seem to summarize the main point of the short film.
“We think we own our children, I do not believe that way,” she says. “We are people who hold, nurture, and make our children better. They’re not to be made as we are.”
“Zoey isn’t special because she’s transgender, Zoey is special because she’s my daughter,” says Ofelia during the film. “And that’s just it.”
The documentary short premiered at Outfest 2016 in Los Angeles and will make its way to Long Beach to be screened on the final day of the festival, on Sunday, September 11 at 10:30AM at the Art Theatre. A Q&A session with filmmaker Dante Alencastre and cast Zoey Luna, Ofelia Barba and Zoey's older sister Leticia Barba will take place afterward. To purchase tickets, click here. To watch the trailer, click here.