Director Chelsea McMullan's "My Prairie Home" is a genre-exploding musical documentary with an inspiring subject: the transgender alt-country singer-songwriter Rae Spoon (who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun "they"). The film takes filmgoers on a journey that is sometimes playfully quirky and sometimes hauntingly melancholic. With only a guitar and enough cash for Greyhound fare, Spoon journeys across the vast Canadian prairie — a majestic presence that functions as a secondary subject of the documentary. The film features Spoon crooning — in dive bars and small-town halls — about coming of age, both as a musician and as a trans person. (The film's opening was accompanied by the release of an album with the same name.)
Raised by deeply religious Pentecostal parents obsessed with the Rapture, Spoon describes formative years spent in Calgary, Alberta, while McMullan illustrates the tale with intriguing visuals. Along with the music, intimate interviews with Spoon slowly reveal a one-of-a-kind intelligence. McMullan intersperses Spoon's narration with moody shots of the Canadian landscape and its small towns, and she joins Spoon on a visit to the amazing Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta.
Like its subject, Sundance Film Festival favorite "My Prairie Home" defies labels. It is beautiful and deeply personal cinematic poetry. It is part documentary and part avant-garde music video. It is at times deeply emotional and at times almost hypnotic. Suspend expectations and join McMullan and Spoon on this tender and ultimately joyful road trip.
Premieres July 13 at 6 p.m. at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St. Tickets available at www.outfest.org/fest2014.
-Charles Purdy, Brand Publishing Writer