NO ORDINARY MAN
Filmmakers Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt craft an innovative, deeply personal exploration of the life and legacy of pioneering trans jazz musician Billy Tipton.
At the heart of this incisive documentary is Billy Tipton, an Oklahoma-born, trans masculine musician who carved out an impressive career as a traveling jazz musician in the 1940s and ’50s before settling into family life with his wife and three sons. However, NO ORDINARY MAN is not so much a straightforward biographical documentary as a meditation on the ways in which Tipton’s story has been re-shaped through decades of speculation and misrepresentation. Drawing on archival material and contemporary interviews, the filmmakers skillfully guide the viewer through the various stages of Tipton’s legacy—from the tasteless sensationalizing of Tipton’s posthumous “outing” to the publication of a critically admired biography that insistently mis-gendered its subject. Throughout, Chin-Yee and Joynt intersperse this narrative with staged auditions in which numerous trans-masculine actors read for the part of Billy, encouraging each to refract his biography through the prism of their own experiences. Celebrating the diverse stories of trans artists past and present, NO ORDINARY MAN is a vital corrective to decades of problematic depiction and a moving tribute to a trans icon.
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