Kimberly Reed's Prodigal Sons, at its core, is about her brother Mark's mental illness due to a head injury, her own sexual transition and how those facets fit into their family dynamic. She views tonight's screening as a homecoming, with dozens of people (including many family members) driving in from Helena to see her "coming out" in both senses of the word: as a filmmaker with a Montana premiere and, of course, as a woman.
As a teenager growing up in Helena, Paul McKerrow (now Kimberly Reed) was a popular high school hunk and athlete. He left his hometown after graduation and moved to the Bay area and then to New York, only to return home years later as a woman.
She reconnected with old friends at her father's funeral in 2003, then began shooting the film at her high school reunion in 2005. While the film explores sexuality, her adopted brother's unique family associations, and mental illness, Reed says that it's mostly about a family who is faced with restructuring itself.
"We get a chance to reinvent ourselves," says Reed. "I think Mark and I have become these symbols for people moving and changing and reinventing ourselves and coming home."
Reed says the film could be "a bit disturbing" due to its level of family intimacy, but knows that the story, no matter how difficult it is to tell or watch, can potentially help other people struggling with the same issues.
"If you have this dark secret you don't want anyone to know...whether that's me and my issues of gender or whether it's our family and this issue of mental illness...you want to keep it buried."
But Reed describes her experience making the film as "liberating" and somewhere therapeutic in the sense that it helped her face what she needed to face with regard to both herself and her family.
The Montana premiere of Prodigal Sons screens tonight at 5.45pm in Wilma 1. Attendance is expected to be high.