By now most of The Column’s readers probably now about the infuriating story CeCe McDonald’s imprisonment, but just in case, here’s a (very short) summary from the upcoming event’s own press release: “On her way to the store with a group of friends, Chrishaun Reed “CeCe” McDonald was brutally attacked. While defending her life, a man was killed. After a coercive interrogation, CeCe was incarcerated in a men’s prison in Minnesota.” While these events were undeniably unjust, McDonald did inspire trans activists and advocates internationally to campaign for her freedom and bring awareness to the injustice trans people of color often face when dealing with the court and prison system. Laverne Cox was one such champion for McDonald, and even a few mainstream media outlets came to the Free CeCe! campaign’s aid.
McDonald has since been released in part due to the tireless efforts of her allies, but her story is not unfamiliar. Trans women of color are notoriously mistreated by the justice system, often served harsh sentences for self-defense or minor crimes and then housed in the wrong prison. While this case brought important attention to these issues, change does not seem to be coming on any large scale nearly fast enough. Which is why the FREE CECE! documentary chronicling not only these issues but the power of the campaign that helped lead to her freedom is so crucial. With Laverne Cox at the helm of this project as executive producer, there’s a definite optimism and buzz around the quality and integrity of the film. Cox is known for her acting work in Orange is the New Black and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she is just as prolific and recognized for her role as an activist. She has a few acclaimed producing credits under her belt already — most notably the 2014 documentary, The T Word, which chronicles the often ignored stories of transgender youth. Cox was joined by Slobodan Randjelovic, who also served as producer.
Documentarian Jac Gares was pulled on for the leg work of the film making. Gares is already being lauded for pushing to the heart of this story, pushing past the overdone narrative of victimhood often put upon trans people by the media (especially in cases like this), and using the project to highlight empowered voices of McDonald and other transgender activists who have been working and fighting and doing the work long before this story came to anyone’s attention. FREE CECE! also includes music by Jordana LeSesne.
So, now that you’re dying to see this groundbreaking film, here’s the “where” and “how” of this weekend’s screening. The event is Saturday, the 29th at 8:00pm at Intermedia Arts. The screening also includes a pre-show mixer at 7:30pm, and a post-show discussion and dance produced by RARE Productions. The discussion will include Gares and Mcdonald, and will be moderated by the Twin Cities’ own Andrea Jenkins. Tickets are $7 in advance or $9 at the door. They (and more information) are found here, at Intermedia’s website. The film is not available in theaters or for streaming at this time, so don’t miss your chance to see and support this project!
*Special note from Intermedia’s website: “This film is presented in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Office for Multicultural Student Engagement and the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection In Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgender Studies. The post-screening dance party is presented by RARE Productions.”