“We have two children, a boy and a girl. That was a girl and a boy,” says Christian McCarthy, a father of two transgender children at the start of Ren and Luca, a new documentary from filmmakers Dan Hunt and Joy E. Reed.
Now in post-production, the film follows Ren, 10, and Luca, 15, as they transition in an America more divided than ever.
Filming from early 2016 to September 2017, cameras capture Ren and Luca through the election of President Trump and the reversal of President Obama’s mandate protecting students. But while the backdrop is certainly ominous, the McCarthy family remains tenacious.
“It was a privilege to spend time with this family during such a pivotal period in their lives,” Hunt tells NewNowNext. “Their voices need to be heard now during these uncertain and backward times.”
In one scene, Luca helps coach his sister for a beauty pageant he competed in himself six years earlier.
The siblings’ story is unusual, but it’s also universal, explains Reed.
“Their relationship reminds me a lot of my relationship with my older brothers. They have a typical teen/tween dynamic,” she says. “While they do have a lot of friction, they have moments that are full of unconditional love. And when push comes to shove, Ren and Luca will be in each other’s corner throughout life.”
Between pageant training and auditions, Ren and Luca attend trans support groups, unpack troubling political news, and undergo various transition-related check-ups and procedures. The documentary is punctuated with everyday family chores, like mom Shelley sorting through the kids “special underwear.”
“The kids are pushing the envelope by challenging the binary through their clothes, their overall style, and unapologetic attitude,” says Hunt admiringly. “It’s easy for folks who don’t know any trans people to consider them ’Other,’ to eschew them,” Reed adds. “Once you get to know the family, you can’t help but fall in love with them. Visibility is understanding.”
The filmmakers are raising money for post-production editing, color correction, scoring, and festival fees on Kickstarter.
“Acceptance is a really complicated process and can be profoundly difficult sometimes,” Reed admits. “Ren and Luca explores this theme on many levels and from many vantage points. Being truly authentic, especially in the face of adversity, is a lesson that we need to be reminded of.”