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This documentary about the transgender whistleblower and former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning takes its title from her Twitter handle, @xychelsea.
“Where would you start the story – your story?” director Tim Travers Hawkins asks his subject. The lens keeps refocusing on Manning’s face, as though it can’t quite get a clear visual. Though she is not the film-maker, these strategies offer Manning an opportunity to reclaim some agency over the way she has been presented after her 35-year prison sentence in 2013 for treason and its subsequent commutation (she spent seven years inside).
Yet Manning repeatedly insists that she “doesn’t know” who she is or what she’s doing. And why would she? The 31-year-old talks about her alcoholic parents, mental health struggles, coming out as a trans woman and, briefly, her traumatic experiences in solitary confinement.
Young, idealistic, angry and rash, she dives into activism instead of spending her first year out of prison recovering. The film picks up in 2017 as she gets out (and ends as she goes back behind bars earlier this year after refusing to testify in front of a grand jury), staying close to her side as she finds herself a public figure. Hawkins seems beguiled by Manning’s natural charisma, and more interested in the highs and lows of her personal reckoning. These are fascinating in their own right, yet more context might have made this feel like more of a definitive portrait.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: XY Chelsea review – in search of the real Chelsea Manning | Film