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The Brandon Teena Story
The Brandon Teena Story
Actors: Kate Bornstein, JoAnne Brandon, John Lotter, Tom Nissen, Brandon Teena
Directors: Susan Muska, Gréta Olafsdóttir
Genres: Documentary
NR     2000     1hr 29min

To his girlfriends, he was the perfect boyfriend. To his killers, he was a gender-bending freak. To the law, he got what he deserved. Ultimately, Brandon Teena is an American tragedy. Winner of best documentary awards ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Kate Bornstein, JoAnne Brandon, John Lotter, Tom Nissen, Brandon Teena
Directors: Susan Muska, Gréta Olafsdóttir
Creators: Susan Muska, Gréta Olafsdóttir, Jane Dekrone
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Biography, Gay & Lesbian, Docurama
Studio: Docurama
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/25/2000
Original Release Date: 09/23/1998
Theatrical Release Date: 09/23/1998
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

The tragic life art imitated
takintime | Raleigh, NC USA | 05/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I decided to see this video before seeing "Boys Don't Cry", the movie based on the same story. I have concluded that seeing both films is essential for anyone not directly involved in the actual situation to understand what went on. "Boys Don't Cry" took some liberties with the facts involved in the true story, as most artistic works must ultimately do. "The Brandon Tenna Story" focused on the facts leading up to the hate-crime rape and murder--showing John Lotter and Tom Nissen as amoral sociopaths who, even two years after their crimes, see themselves as homegrown heros who saved a friend through sexual assault and who each proclaims his innocence of the subsequent triple (not double) murder that followed. (This video tells of the third victim of the murder--a physically disabled African American man who just happened to be at the murder scene at the time.) Also in this film (and missing from "BDC") are interviews with the mother of Brandon Teena and the parents of the friend who offered him shelter and tried to offer him a refuge from Lotter and Nissen, only to die for her efforts an leave a 9-month-old son an orphan. The actual filmed interviews with the deputy sheriff who let Lotter and Nissen go, even after they as good as confessed their involvement in the rape to him, is perhaps the most puzzling character of all in this video. The excerpts from his interrogations of Brandon after the rape, and subsequently of Nissen and Lotter, indicate that he was far more aggressive and harsh in his questioning of the victim. There is evidence that both Nissen and Lotter were already well-known as violent trouble-makers in the county's law enforcement officers, this deputy included. In his brief appearances in the film, the sheriff of the county where Brandon dies gives a distinct impression of a town in severe financial depression where violence of all sorts is an everyday affair that everyone learns to live with, if they want to live at all. Somehow, a careful analysis of all that information, and a bit more fact gathering, might ultimately explain why, even after the murders, the deputy seems to regard himself as a law enforcement professional who did his job as best he could. At the end of this video, however, he seems to be nearly as culpable in the crimes as Nissen and Lotter themselves. I don't apologize for that impression, since evidently the Nebraska courts are still dealing with that very issue in a lawsuit filed by Brandon's mother.This video does not portray Brandon in his best light (I definitely refer anyone to "BDC" for that), because it seems to focus more on the basic facts of his too-short life more than on the pain and confusion that must have been his--trying to live as a man when he had been given a body that appeared to be mostly female, and in a part of the world where the people surrounding him were too busy screwing up their own lives to understand his unique set of problems. So Brandon's survival skills came to include lying and occasionally writing bad checks. But even the most hardcore pragmatist would have to say at the end of the film that Brandon's "victims" would recover in short order and get on with their lives. That's a great deal more than can be said for the victims of Nissen and Lotter, who in this documentary seem to be singing, "We're just some good ol' boys, never meaning' no harm" to the world." Perhaps the most chilling part of viewing this excellent documentary is that knowledge that this savagery took place only seven years ago in America, helped along by people who at least still give lip service to the idea that they were doing the right thing at the time. At the end of the film, one's mind is filled with the usual 20/20 hindsight solutions for the perverted conditions that enabled the slaughter, and a quiet determination to do whatever possible to change those conditions wherever they may still, unfortunately be found.A powerful film, a definite must-see."
Ignorance and prejudice lead to murder
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 03/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Even though I knew the story after seeing the movie "Boys Don't Cry", I am glad I saw this video. The facts of the case, especially the actual words that the sheriff used to interrogate Brandon after the rape, were absolutely appalling and display the ignorance and prejudice of the people in the small town of 5000, known for its dead-end jobs and domestic violence.Now that I've seen both versions of this story, I must say I preferred Boys Don't Cry with its scripted performance and planned dramatic tension. It also was able to portray some of the more intimate moments with a sense of humor, such as the scene in which he gets a period and steals tampax from a convenience store. Scenes like this are impossible in a documentary of course.The strength of the documentary, however, was being able to see the real people, not actors. And real photographs of the troubled Brandon. The realization that this is the truth, not fiction, adds an extra punch or horror to that sickening feeling I felt when I saw the dramatized version.If the story intrigues you, as it did me as well as the filmmakers, make sure not to miss this penetrating true look at this horrible crime. Recommended."
A good documentary of a terrible tragedy
Deirdre NYC | 12/28/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The fact that there is a documentary about Brandon Teena-a young, working class, transgender person who was murdered in a small Nebraska town in December 1994-shows that there is a significant and growing movement against trans oppression.Many transgender people are murdered at the hands of bigots. Trans people have been systematically oppressed by the cops and the bosses for hundreds of years. If we know the names Brandon Teena, Marsha P. Johnson and Venus Extravaganza-all killed by bigots and trans oppression-it's only because of a growing awareness of the lives and deaths of trans people. This is the direct result of a movement for liberation.The documentary film, The Brandon Teena Story, produced and directed by Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir, is a respectful and important work. The most unfortunate aspect of the film is the absence of its main character. We see Brandon Teena only through photographs, people's memories, and testimony from the men who raped and murdered him. The most painful part of the film is an audio tape of Brandon made by cops as they grilled him about being raped by the men who would later kill him and two others. The cops deliberately waited to arrest the pair until after the murders.Brandon's story of transitioning, love, murder and oppression is told thoughtfully by friends and former girlfriends. It was Falls City Sheriff Charles Laux, who publicly exposed Brandon's genetic sex (female), who began the cascade of violence that ended in the triple homicide of Brandon Teena, Lisa Lambert and Phillip DeVine. Lampert and DeVine were killed to try to protect the identities of the murderers, John Lotter and Tom Nissen.While there is a lot of information about Brandon Teena available to the movement, this film is an important contribution because it exposes the daily oppression transgender people suffer at the hands of bigoted cops and the sexist, transphobic, anti-lesbian/gay/bi system that oppresses us all."
An accurate portrayal of events
Barbara Jackson | Pawnee City, NE USA | 02/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Seldom does a documentary film give such depth and background to a story. These filmmakers spent years in the courtroom and with the victims' families as well as the families of the killers. The obvious cooperation of law enforcement, media and members of the community is because of the attitude of Muska and Olafsdottir. They never succumbed to the promotion of the sensational aspects of the crime which prompted some lurid headlines.Without losing their objectivity, they maintained their compassion for all those involved. As someone who spent five years following this case as a reporter, I can vouch for its accuracy."