At 60 years old, LeAnna is finally comfortable in her own skin.
“The first 60 years of my life I lived as a man. I truly feel I was born in the wrong body. I was beaten by drunks who were in the Navy because I was so prissy looking,” LeAnna says in a new documentary by Sag Harbor filmmakers Beatrice Alda and Jennifer Brooke. “I only have one regret: That I didn’t know sooner how to take all of this and turn it into something so, so, joyous, not only for myself, but for others.”
The film, “Out Late,” tells the story of five people who waited until after the age of 55 to “come out.” It will be featured next week in the Long Island International Film Expo 2008, along with “Epicac,” a film by Hampton Bays native Walter Tully, and a host of others made by Long Islanders or shot on Long Island.
According to Ms. Brooke, who is Ms. Alda’s partner in Forever Films Inc. in Sag Harbor and in life, the idea for the film came during a dinner with friends. One friend said his mother, who was older than 55, was alone and unhappy. When pressed for a reason for his mother’s sorrow, he joked that she was probably gay.
The conversation made the two filmmakers consider exploring what would happen if someone came out much later in life.
The original title, Ms. Brooke explained, had been “Jason’s Mother,” and what ended up being the team’s first feature-length film was planned to be lighthearted and funny. But after screening about 50 applicants, found through advertisements and church postings in the United States and Canada, the couple found that the stories were anything but lighthearted. For instance, LeAnna, who served in the U.S. Navy, had endured a life of pain and torment before she became transgendered at age 60.
“LeAnna had been beaten and raped, repeatedly. Society saw her as too feminine a man. At the time she was living as a man, but they clearly sensed something about her,” Ms. Brooke explained. “She was left for dead a couple times. Her story is incredibly tragic.”
And LeAnna was not alone.
In the film, another woman, Cathy, and her partner are living in Kansas where, in April 2005, residents voted to amend their constitution and ban gay marriage.
Married to a man until 1979, Cathy never came out to her community until the vote. Still, Cathy’s partner had not fully revealed her sexuality until she participated in the filming for “Out Late.”
In 2006, the New York Times ran an article about the climate in Kansas after the vote and told Cathy’s story. Ms. Alda, co-founder of The Children’s Museum of the East End, and Ms. Brooke tracked Cathy and her partner down for the film.
Toronto resident Walter, whom Ms. Brooke calls the film’s quiet story, came out at the age of 60 to his church. He had been asked to sit on a panel to discuss homosexuality and gay people and decided he could either lie or tell the truth.
The spitfire in the film is a Florida woman named Elaine, who came out at the age of 79. Before that, she had been married to a man and had two children. One of her children still lives with her, but disapproves of her lifestyle and would not be in the film.
“What helped her come out was ‘The L Word’ on Showtime,” Ms. Brooke said, discussing the hit cable series that tells the story of a group of lesbian friends in Los Angeles.
“I think they are all triumphant stories,” Ms. Brooke said. “It’s never too late to be who you really are.”
Along with the personal stories, Ms. Brooke said the one-hour film is also politically charged, especially because of the situation in Kansas.
The film debuted at the Maryland Film Festival and was shown at the Newfest in New York City last month. The documentary will be shown at the Long Island Expo, as well as festivals in Barcelona, Spain, Rhode Island and Philadelphia.
Still, the filmmakers really want to make it into the Hamptons Film Festival, which they have not heard back from yet.
“We really are hoping to get into it,” Ms. Brooke said.
Hampton Bays native Will Tully will also be debuting a film at the Long Island festival, his based on the short story “Epicac” from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House.”
Mr. Tully attended the School of Visual Arts film school in Manhattan before moving to Los Angeles in 1999. In 2000, his film “Jingle Hell,” was shown at the Long Island International Film Festival. Since then, Mr. Tully said he put filmmaking on the back burner. But after being married to Kristen Campos this year and securing a position as a private chef, he decided to pick up his passion and make another movie.
The 21-minute film tells the story of a computer that learns to love. In the film, a mathematician uses the poetry the machine emits to win the love of his co-worker.