A Nova Scotia film that shares the story of a transgender woman finding acceptance in her small hometown debuted at Toronto's Virtual Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival last week - CBC Reports.
Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor shares the journey of a transgender woman named Dawn who goes back to her Nova Scotia hometown after her mom passes away, hoping to fix her relationship with her father.
Shelley Thompson of Wolfville, N.S., wrote and directed the film seven years ago after getting inspired by her son's experience of being trans. "This film was sort of my love letter to my son's community, and the hope that [people] understand how important it is ... that families and communities support trans people," Thompson said in an interview with CBC Radio.
The film was shot and produced entirely in Nova Scotia, and Thompson said she wanted it to emulate other rural communities in Canada that are often less accepting of LGBTQ kids - something her son personally experienced. After graduating high school, he left home.
The leading role in the film is performed by Maya Henry, a trans woman, who said this experience resonated with her. "[Dawn and I] both came from rural towns and escaped to large cities to find our community and to access resources to transition and be the truest version of ourselves," Henry said to CBC.
Henry is from Ontario and has been documenting her transition on YouTube. She said the character she plays has a different style when it comes to her transition. "She is a lot more private about her transition, [as] a way to convey that she is still very much the same person," Henry explained.
"She might look different, but she is the same underneath, and she just wants to be a part of society like everyone else, so I think that's a really important story to tell."
As Dawn fixes up her family's old tractor, her father learns to support her and repudiate the transphobia within their hometown.
"This film really shows how families can really come around, how there is a great deal of patience that's needed sometimes, but that most people — when faced with obstacles — want to do the right thing, and it's just a matter of time, education, learning and wanting to be there for the people you love," Henry said.
Thompson explained that it was important to her to cast a transgender person in the lead role. "It was very clear that not just Dawn was going to be played by a trans individual, but that we were going to try to surround Maya with individuals that she recognized as part of her community," Thompson said.
The role is Henry's first feature-length film – an opportunity she calls life-changing. "It really sends home the message that trans people are everywhere," she said. "They're anyone, and we deserve to tell our stories as authentically as possible."
Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor will premiere in Nova Scotia in September at the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival.