Kimberly Reed: Prodigal Sons Interview
As a theme in Western art, sibling rivalry is as ancient as the Hebrew Bible or the internecine blood feud that shapes the destinies of two sisters in Sophocles’ Antigone. In her utterly absorbing family portrait Prodigal Sons, which won the FIPRESCI prize at the 2009 Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Kimberly Reed (“25 New Faces of Independent Film,” Summer 2007) revisits this archetype with honesty and courage, grappling with questions of identity as she details how life-changing transformations have affected her relationship with adopted brother Marc McKerrow, a soulful hard-luck character who has long felt he was living in her shadow. The wheels are set in motion with Reed’s decision to attend a high-school reunion in her hometown of Helena, Montana, with Marc, from whom she’s been estranged for over a decade. Then comes the first big reveal: Kim is transgender and used to be Paul, a popular, all-American high-school quarterback and model student, evidenced by a quick shuffle of old family photos and degraded home-video footage. Marc’s own transformation hinges on the head injury he suffered in a car accident on his 21st birthday, which has resulted in seizures, wild mood swings, and explosive outbursts that a cocktail of meds keeps only partly under wraps. As Reed (who narrates) tries to reconcile the past she’s labored so long to forget, Marc—a beautifully expressive, entirely self-taught pianist—decides to seek out his birth legacy and turns up a rather startling connection to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. Full of surprising revelations and agonized turnabouts, Reed’s film is impressive as a personal document about self-definition and as a uniquely intimate tale of searching compassion.