'Family in Transition': Film Review

DOC NYC
Defies expectations.
11/16/2018

Ofir Trainin's documentary chronicles the effects on an Israeli clan when the father transitions into a woman.

That life is stranger than fiction is demonstrated yet again in Ofir Trainin's documentary about an Israeli family dealing with its patriarch's transition into womanhood. While there has been no shortage of theatrical and television documentaries dealing with transgender issues, Family in Transition stands out both for the particularities inherent in its setting and the deeply sympathetic individuals at its center.

Shot over two years, the doc revolves around the Tzuk clan, who live in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, home to roughly 60,000 people. Amit and Galit have been married for 20 years and are the parents of four children. It becomes immediately clear that Amit's transitioning has done little to affect the tight-knit family. The first scene shows Amit in the bathroom putting on women's makeup and getting interrupted by his young daughter, who gifts him with a pair of earrings. Galit is fully supportive of her husband's decision and plans to stay by his side after he becomes a woman, although she expresses frustration over the newfound emotionalism due to his hormone treatments.

"As a man, she didn't cry for years. Now she can't stop crying," Galit complains.

Amit, an army veteran who was wounded during his service, prepares his mother for the transition, writing her, "Don't be sad, mother, I'm going to be reborn." Galit accompanies him to Thailand, where he undergoes gender-reassignment surgery, and helps with the lengthy, painful recuperation.

At first, things seem to be going beautifully. Amit's children are fully supportive of their father, his young daughters showing remarkable maturity and tolerance even as they undergo bullying from their classmates. Amit and Galit get remarried, wearing identical wedding dresses in a touching ceremony during which their children offer loving toasts.

But Galit becomes increasingly unhappy with the relationship and expresses a desire to move on. This leads to the film's most fascinating segment, in which the couple wind up in a rabbinical court. Under Jewish law, a divorce can occur only with the husband's permission. Amit refuses, on the grounds that now that's she's a woman she's in no position to grant one.

Running only 70 minutes, Family in Transition feels sketchy at times. The film only glancingly deals with Amit and Galit's growing estrangement, their divorce proceedings and their eventual relationships with other people. There are times when you feel that key moments and details about the family members and situations have been left out. And, of course, there's the inevitable reality-show aftertaste, leaving you to wonder how strongly everyone involved are playing to the camera.

Despite these problematic aspects, the doc packs an undeniable emotional punch, presenting a fresh viewpoint on its hot-button topic. It's impossible not to be moved by the courage and tolerance demonstrated by the principal figures, especially the children who become more rattled by their parents' separation than their father becoming a woman. One could only dream that every family in transition could behave in such admirable fashion.

Production company: Yes Docu
Distributor: Abramorama
Director-screenwriter: Ofir Trainin

Producers: Ofir Trainin, Tal Barda
Executive producer: Josianne-tsvia Meitar
Directors of photography: Ofir Trainin, Uri Levy
Editor: Roi Ben Ami
Composer: Ofir Liebowitz
World sales: Go2Films

70 minutes