The Pearl explores the raw experience, both physical and emotional, of being middle aged or older and trans* against the backdrop of postindustrial logging towns in the Pacific Northwest.
We travel with four women, all in extremely early stages of coming out, as they attend the Esprit Conference, an annual event in Vancouver, Washington, where trans* women who have lived closeted their whole lives come together in an accepting environment that allows them to express their true identity. From here we follow the lives of these same four women over the course of nearly three years as they grapple with varying degrees of transition.
There is Nina, 67, a pizza delivery person who identifies as trans* but struggles to decide the best way to reveal her true self to her wife of nearly 40 years. Amy, 72, the eldest of the group, loses her wife of many years and opens her home to fellow trans* people seeking support. The final two women are Krystal, 47, and Jodie, 49, two former brothers who now identify as sisters.
Their courage is astonishing, as is their outlook, including the sage advice that comes from one of the women and explains the film’s title. She compares trans* people to oysters: “You gotta find that pearl and forget the shell.”
Winner: Grand Jury Prize—2016 Dallas International Film Festival; Official Selection: Hot Docs 2016