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The Grey Area cover image

The Grey Area 2021


Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Laura M. Blair, Keagan Anfuso, Drew L. Brown, Ray Wood, and Anja Crowsby
Directed by Keagan Anfuso and Drew L. Brown
Streaming, 35 mins

High School - General Adult
Gender Identity; Gender Studies; LGBTQ

Date Entered: 08/01/2022

Reviewed by Jarvis Sparks, Librarian, Media & Student Outreach, Langara College

Using diverse personal narratives, The Grey Area explores societal response to masculine women and their breaking of gender norms. The film centers on the experiences of its director – Keagan Anfuso – using incidents throughout her life to show how gender norms are constructed and enforced, as well as the damaging consequences of homophobia and transphobia for masculine women. It weaves in the narratives of several other women in the form of a discussion group in which they describe experiences of rejection, discrimination, misunderstanding and violence that they have faced as women who are perceived, in one way or another, as being too masculine.

This film demonstrates the power of personal narrative to create understanding of broader social issues. In relating her experiences, Anfuso begins by discussing different areas of childhood in which gender differences are created and enforced by both adults and children – clothes, toys, appearance, and behavior. She explicitly names and explains societal assumptions that are made about masculine women and connects the firsthand experiences of herself and others to broader issues viewers may have encountered in the news or their own lives, in a way that is both affecting and easy to understand. She and the discussion group participants describe negative experiences they have had due to how mainstream society, their families, and their communities have reacted to their masculinity.

The flashback sequences throughout the film have a theatrical quality in contrast to the clean approach of the discussion group scenes that is at times jarring. Nevertheless, this use of life experiences to illustrate the concepts being discussed is effective, especially in the discussion group scenes, where even the physical layout of the scenes – the women sitting together in a circle - serves as a visual cue to connect their shared experiences together. Anfuso ends the film by stating - “I feel proud to be a woman in the grey area”, bringing viewers back to one of the central themes of the film – the importance of being your authentic self, regardless of how others respond to you.

While this title focuses on the experiences of masculine women, it also presents a valuable perspective for a broader discussion of gender and discrimination in a women’s studies, LGBT studies, or sociological context. The well-structured approach of the film makes it engaging and accessible to a broad range of audiences.

Best Documentary Short, OUT at the Movies International Film Fest; Best Short Documentary, Jacksonville Film Festival; Best Documentary Short, Through Women's Eyes International Film Festival; Semi-Finalist, Documentary Short - San Francisco Indie Short Festival

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