Documentary shows what it takes to be a ‘Real Boy’ |

Documentary shows what it takes to be a ‘Real Boy’

Bennett Wallace sings to his mother, Suzy, in Shaleece Haas' award-winning documentary "Real Boy." The Park City Film Series, in partnership with Planned Parenthood of Utah, will host a free screening of the film at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, in the Park City LIbrary's Jim Santy Auditorium.
Photo by Shaleece Haas

Park City Film Series will present a free screening of Shaleece Haas’ “Real Boy,” not rated, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave. The screening is part of the Reel Film Series program. For information, visit

‘Real Boy’ post-screening panel participants

• Moderator: August Price, a Teen Council Alumnus, Include Peer Educator and Queer Youth Advisory Council member

• Jimmy Lee of the Utah Pride Center

• Sadie Ortiz, a Park City High School Junior Teen Council, Latinos in Action and Bright Futures member

• Thalia Barnett, Teen Council member at Wasatch High School and former Gay Straight Alliance president

• Izzy Neubecker, a transgender Park City High School alumnus and University of Utah student

• Ruth Ann Zimmer, Izzy’s mother

At one point during Shaleece Haas’ award-winning 2017 documentary “Real Boy,” the film’s subject, 19-year-old Bennett Wallace, says “I just want to be loved by my family, and I think for my family it’s not quite as simple as that.”

The scene, in a few words, breaks down Wallace’s struggle of being a transgender man, said Katharine Wang, Park City Film Series executive director.

“‘Real Boy’ is a beautiful depiction of not only Bennett’s journey of transition, and the support he creates in the community, but it is also about his relationship with his mother, Suzy,” Wang said. “Suzy struggles because she identified with her daughter, who is now Bennett, a son.” By following Bennett’s mother’s journey as well, the film provides many entry points for the audience to connect with the story, Wang said. “Seeing things from Suzy’s perspective and watching her own transformation from resistance to acceptance can help people understand the conversation about transition and how they can be supportive of the trans population and those who are more fluid on the gender spectrum.”

The Park City Film Series will present a free screening of “Real Boy” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.

The documentary has won a string of Best Documentary awards at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in Austin, LesGaiCeineMad in Madrid and the Durango Film Festival in Colorado. It also won Best Feature at the Iris Prize Film Festival in Wales.

The screening is underwritten in part by Planned Parenthood of Utah, who has an ongoing partnership with the Park City Film Series, according to Wang.

“They have been wonderful advocates in our community regarding sexual assault, consent, gender identity and sexuality and giving value to those conversations,” she said.

Last year, Annabel Sheinberg, education director for Planned Parenthood of Utah, brought “Real Boy” to Wang’s attention.

“It struck a chord because there is so much conversation about gender identity that has been gaining momentum not only in this community, but in the nation,” Wang said. “It seemed like a good entry point for us to elevate the conversation.”

Park City Film Series made it a point to screen the documentary during Mental Health Awareness Month, because it addresses how mental health care, or the lack of it, affects the well-being of transgender people and the communities they inhabit, Wang said.

“This conversation isn’t just about trans people,” she said. “It’s about all of us and it shows us how the beauty of our differences makes our community more complex. The filmmakers want people to embrace diversity wherever it may be — schools, the workplaces and homes — and make the world a safer place as well as letting us all be ourselves.”

A post-screening panel discussion, curated by Sheinberg will follow up and build on the conversations that are spotlighting in the film, Wang said. (See accompanying box)

“The goal of the panel is to be an accessible experience that will give a voice to transgender youth, as well as give parents and allies more knowledge,” she said. “The panelists are people who have experience with transgender issues, and will show us how to have these conversations that are safe and inclusive. We’re all on this journey at different points of understanding.”

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