In the spotlight of global media coverage Lucia Lucas, the first transgender woman ever to perform as Don Giovanni in a professional opera, makes her historic debut in one of America’s most conservative states. Here is our review of the documentary The Sound Of Identity.
First of all, here is a little background information on our subject or should I say star. Lucia Lucas is an actor and Opera singer who performs as a baritone. She is also transgender. Lucas grew up in Sacramento, California studying horn and voice at California State University and then graduating from the Chicago College Of Performing Arts. Moving to Germany in 2009, she made the biggest and bravest decision of her life a few years later in 2013. It was at that time that Lucia decided to transition from male to female. Beginning the process in July 2014 Lucia took estrogen and antiandrogens and underwent female feminization surgery the following September. Then in 2016 she finally underwent her gender reassignment surgery.
The reason I have given you this information is that The Sound Of Identity doesn’t really tell you much about that. It may be a film about a transgender person but it is not solely about their transgenderism. Neither is The Sound Of Identity about politics, although it does make some important political points. It doesn’t virtue signal to a certain demographic or forces its point of view onto those who don’t share the same outlook. It is simply a film about identity, the indefatigable strength of the human spirit and an actor and opera singer, who just happens to be transgender.
The lack of Lucia’s back story is actually a great choice from director James Kicklighter, as it allows us to focus on the present and not dwell on Lucia’s past which is a trope that has been used quite regularly when it comes to recent LGBT material. This gives the documentary originality that other films dealing with the same issues sometimes lack. It has a more modern and immediate feel because we are following the story of who Lucia is right now in this moment as opposed to who she was way back then.
Who Lucia is right now is a very confident and charismatic performer, yet like everyone, she has insecurities and foibles. She has absolutely no doubts about her ability, talent or the decisions she has made, but she is also insecure in herself and very humble and grateful to her mentor – the legendary composer Tobias Picker, who has put his career and legacy on the line by choosing her to play the title role in Mozart’s masterpiece Don Giovanni.
There are some very moving and beautiful moments in this documentary and most of them take place between Lucia and Tobias. Early in the film, Lucia breaks down when talking about her father, who divorced her mother when she was a child and went on to have several girlfriends. She was devastated by her parent’s separation and is still visibly shaken today. Tobias becomes her paternal father figure and it’s their interactions that drive the story. There is a lot of love and respect between the two of them and this comes across each time they are together.
The subplot to the documentary is the show itself, Don Giovanni, as we begin 30 days from the opening night where unfortunately ticket sales are not going well. Lucia and her colleagues have conversations about how to drum up support and whether or not it is her fault that sales are poor. While she never waivers in her belief that she made the right decision, she offers sound reasoning in believing that her coming out as the first transgender opera singer would boost interest in opera itself. She knew her announcement would get a lot of press coverage and she hoped that this publicity would bring with it new fans to the art form.
There are a few soul-searching chats with colleagues, where Lucia wonders with some justification if her transgenderism is causing problems with the sales. This is, after all, Oklahoma – one of the most conservative states in the US. However, everyone is fully supportive of her and her doubts are just minor issues like wondering if people are merely coming to stare at her like she’s some sort of freak show attraction.
The suspense until opening night and Lucia performing is palpable with a genuine sense of jeopardy that helps keep the film alive for the full 90 minutes. The soundtrack of course is peppered with Mozart’s genius but the extra additions help frame the story, giving us an emotional sense of how Lucia and her collaborators are feeling. A lovingly crafted, intimate story following the creative process from beginning to end, The Sound Of Identity is a hugely successful and modern addition to LGBT cinema.
The Sound Of Identity will preview for audiences at 7 pm EST on Monday 24th August at the 21st annual OUTshine Film Festival in Miami, Florida. Do yourself a favour and catch this extraordinary film about an extraordinary person.