With the cultural acceptance of transgender rights shifting almost by the hour, the time feels right for a documentary like ‘Finding Kim’. It’s a heartwarming tale of one 50-year-old’s journey to finally become the man he’s always been.
Around that framing device, other strong voices in the trans and queer communites get to discuss all of the most pertinent and powerful issues surrounding their lives today. The movie is very sweet and sincere, but plays mostly like an educational tool. It’s a wonderful tool to be sure, just not necessarily a vital movie for anyone who doesn’t need the education. Fortunately, at this precise moment in time, many do.
Our hero is Kim, a 50-year-old Seattle native who’s finally comfortable living as a man. Despite his birth gender, he always knew he was male. Within niche communities, he was considered one, but it wasn’t until the current cultural climate for transgender rights that Kim felt comfortable enough to go through with his transitional surgeries. The opening of the film has Kim express his story, while the likes of Buck Angel and Dan Savage provide a brief history of LGTBQ rights. It’s a moving piece exploring how we got here and about how, now at 50, Kim is finally willing and able to become the person he was always meant to be.
It’s a sweet, moving and densely packed opening from director Adam Bear, and quite well put together. From there, the movie basically just expands that sequence out to 90 minutes over the course of Kim’s hormone and surgical transitions. This doesn’t add much to the movie that wasn’t explored more elegantly and succinctly in the open minutes, but it’s a ride that many should find enlightening and essential.
Kim’s journey is quite moving and deeply personal. He opens up about lifelong battles with depression, bullying, religious parents, and many other struggles that are far too common. He allows cameras into his doctors’ appointments and graphic surgery. He shows the visible and emotional changes that come in his transition. He grows into himself. He becomes happy. He’s a delightful man and has a sweet story worth sharing.
Backing him up are various charismatic members of the LGBTQ community who share their own personal insights and experiences. Writer Dan Savage elegantly and wittily explores the vast growth in trans and gay rights that he’s seen in his lifetime leading to this moment, while the likes of porn star Buck Angel, Carmen Carrera of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, as well as other celebrities and transgender Seattle locals discuss the shifting climate and their own trans experiences in quite moving and personal ways.
For those who have yet to delve too deeply into issues surrounding transgender rights and lifestyles, ‘Finding Kim’ is an intriguing and easily digestible crash course. For those living in that community or in a period of transition themselves, it’ll be a comforting confirmation of all their woes and joys. As the Trans 101 doc this is supposed to be, it serves a purpose. However, the filmmakers are a little too single-minded in their goals. The film frequently feels manipulative, whether it be the excessive heartstring-pulling music or the way the movie quickly cuts out of any potentially difficult issues to focus on more fuzzy feelings. The project has a gentle propaganda nature, confirming all of the most positive views that a growing minority has for itself and giving outsiders the most welcoming of introductions. To that end, the film works wonderfully as a broad educational tool that should be seen by those who need it.
On the other hand, it’s a bit superficial, never exploring any significant difficulties in transitioning, discrimination, or conflicts between the transgender community with the rest of the LGTBQ community with much depth. A more complicated and satisfying documentary might have pushed into more difficult areas or striven for a more personal and multifaceted explorations of these issues. ‘Finding Kim’ is not that movie. That’s a mild disappointment, but at the same time, ‘Finding Kim’ is likely also the movie that we need right now in an era when mass acceptance of the transgender community is so important. A better and more complicated movie will come later. Now’s not the time.