An alternative win
Part extreme-sport exposé, part coming-of-being story, In the Turn weaves together individual lives, human rights battles and competitive excitement to turn out an all-around win.
These various fronts are intelligently crafted into a seamless whole, and it’s the intimate exploration of characters that gets the viewer onboard and rooting for them through the unique challenges each faces.
The documentary opens with the linchpin story of 10-year-old Crystal Labonte, a quiet, cute-as-a-button transgendered girl from the somewhat isolated city of Timmins, Ont. Long location shots, free of narrative and any buildings more than a few storeys high, of a snowmobile and school bus travelling the sparse, snowy streets, industrial smelting stacks and a worn sign for the community rink, demonstrate the restricted existence in northeastern Ontario.
A remote city of 40,000 people is not an easy place to find diverse communities and to make matters worse, her mom, Karen, is barely making ends meet as a single, low-income parent. Crystal’s little brother Alex has been struggling with her change as well as the bullying she’s subjected too, and the fact her school as banned her from sports because they can’t decide what team to assign her to is one more blow for this brave and endearing child.
Over a shot of Crystal playing alone on a snowbank, Karen’s past reference of, “she was a very social child,” is immediately heart-breaking. Crystal first demonstrated unhappiness with her gender at age three and was only five when she first tried to kill herself by cutting off her male genitalia and yelling, “I want to die.”
As a coping mechanism, Crystal’s mom joined the local roller derby team. And as a sport, roller derby—with a foundational, and female-led DIY ethos—has always been one of the most inclusive sports out there. It’s open to anyone who’s game despite size, ability, ethnicity or identity. While reading through related derby blogs, the Vagine Regime—an international queer roller derby league— came to light and Karen, after explaining to Crystal she would be accepted and could play with them one day, laid her heat bare in a letter to the league.
The Vagine Regime is a badass association made up of queer and trans women around the world who are ready to roller derby.
There’s a reason roller derby endured and evolved through the last century from an entertainment sport to one of extreme contact and athleticism. With few formal parameters, and an incredibly tight and accepting community, these women from around the world go all out.
They also have a junior league with Karen’s letter in hand, they fundraise with raffle tickets to fly Crystal down to L.A. to skate in her first camp with other girls. While Crystal’s ability to be included in a sport is important, the real key is her inclusion in a healthy, supportive community and this reality is repeated in the personal stories of various players throughout the film—from gender surgery to the successful fight for gay marriage in California—all have struggled and come out ahead because of the incredible team they’re a part of.
A local panel discussion will follow the screening.
Sat., June 17 (4 pm)
In the Turn
Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. $5-10