This past Thursday night, the Tribeca Film Festival collaborated with ESPN to premiere the documentary Renée, based on the life of transgender tennis player Renée Richards.
Several GLAAD staff members screened a rough cut, and were asked to contribute our suggestions during the editing process, and we were very pleased with how it turned out. We were also proud to attend this debut of the film, which received very positive feedback from both the audience and Renée herself, who hadn't seen the film before its premiere.
Directed by Eric Drath, the film Renée examines Renée’s life from childhood up until the current day. It reveals the struggles she faced as she grew up and finally made the decision to transition in her 40s after getting married and having a child. It digs deeply into some of her personal relationships, particularly with her son, who developed anger towards what he referred to as Renée’s selfishness. It also delves into the impact of her transition on her professional career, as she became the first transsexual player in the women’s U.S. Open. She received criticism from many of her colleagues and unsuspecting support from others.
Even Eric was surprised by some of the discoveries he made through filming. “I think her actions were more the leader or pioneer than her spoken language or how much she speaks about it,” he noted in an interview, saying that he had inititally expected her Renée to be an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights or equality in sports.
Through a collection of photographs, interviews, recollections, and perspectives from a diverse group of people who influenced and were influenced by Renée’s life, the documentary tells an inspiring story about what it means to be true to oneself. “I’d be happy if people became enlightened a little bit more about the problems of identity,” Renée told Tennis Panorama about her hopes for the film. Following the Tribeca screening, both Renée and Eric conversed with the audience, taking questions and discussing the inspiration behind the film.
Renée will be available as part of the Tribeca Film Festival's Online Extension starting June 23rd. It will be screened at other Film Festivals as well, including a showing at Frameline in San Francisco, on June 19th. It will premiere on ESPN this fall.