I have no problem acknowledging that Mr. Angel is not a documentary for everyone.
It should be.
Shot over the course of six years, Mr. Angel chronicles the extraordinary and involving and deeply moving life of transgender advocate, educator and porn pioneer Buck Angel.
Let me wait a few minutes for those of you appalled by my open recommendation of adocumentary about the life of a transgendered porn pioneer to silently slip away seething as you prepare to write me hate mail.
Okay, back to the review.
Buck Angel is a compelling figure who has survived addiction, homelessness, suicide and rather relentless opposition to his gender expression. Even in a society where the LGBT community is experienced acceptance and celebration on a level never before seen, Buck's commitment to living his truth without compromise pushes the limits of what even some progressives are willing to accept.
As a porn star, Buck has been known as the "man with a pussy," a man with a shaved head and biker presentation who also happens to have a vagina he was born with and that he isn't particularly shy about. Director Dan Hunt followed Angel for over six years and looks back at the years when he was still female, from his youth to his period as a fashion model where he dabbled in both drugs and prostitution. These days, Buck is married and works in the porn industry.
If that were his entire story, Mr. Angel would still be a terrific documentary. Where the story of Buck Angel really soars is in his vision of becoming an inspirational speaker and advocate with a message of empowerment, perseverance and self-acceptance that is tremendously needed and has a powerful impact. A great documentary is the kind of documentary where you find yourself sitting there at the end of the film wanting to find out more about the subject matter and, when it's a human subject, really wanting to get to know that person.
Mr. Angel is such a documentary.
There is a courage in Buck Angel, a courage that presents itself more as self-comfort and a sense of purpose that dwells deep inside Angel and allows him to live into what he believes his growing life mission to be. The way Angel presents himself is, at times, even a challenge for those within LGBT circles yet it's obvious by the end of this 68-minute documentary that Angel refuses to conform to fit nicely inside labels that don't truly matter - what matters is that he's true to and comfortable with himself and in these areas Angel truly excels. The film is most involving in the scenes involving Angel and his family, scenes that are vulnerable and honest tear-inducing.
Mr. Angel has proven to be quite successful on the film festival circuit including appearances at QFest, SXSW, Rio International Film Festival, and Atlanta LGBT Film Festival. It also picked up a 2013 Telly Award for social issue documentary and is without doubt one of the more unique and involving docs of 2013. The film also features interviews with such familiar names as Dan Savage, Michael Lucas, Sasha Grey, Wendy Williams and others.
The film hits the street on December 3rd and for folks with a fine appreciation of quality LGBT cinema it should be considered an absolute must this holiday season.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic