Sheona McDonald: Short and Feature at Hot Docs ’21

“Into Light” (2021, documentary short, Sheona McDonald)

Prolific Canadian-documentarian Sheona McDonald tackles a mother’s insecurities about her transgender child. For me, there are several things wrong with the approach, focusing on the mother’s point of view. However, the child was so young when the film was made and it took three years to complete this 19 minute film. Eventually, the daughter speaks toward the end. She wanted a name change and the mother was not ready for it at first. The daughter also thanks her mom for letting her be a girl and she received a brand new birth certificate for her 5th birthday. I would have greatly preferred to hear directly from the daughter despite her young age. No offense, but mainly interviewing the mother made it more about the straight person’s perception of being transgender. We get that the mother is concerned how other people will treat her daughter, but we definitely have to suffer before the mother educates herself. If this is your first time hearing about a transgender person, it might be helpful. But if you realize that our society has been opening up for quite some time, it feels awfully rudimentary.  The most thoughtful part is that the director kept the identities of the mother and child private, so as to not “out” the child. When she is an adult and if she feels like speaking, we will then find out who she is.

Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery (2021, documentary feature, Sheona McDonald)

Quadriga was a cryptocurrency exchange, or rather a Ponzi scheme. The actual documentary has the benefit of having an engaging story. Quadriga founder Gerald Cotten faked his own death while on his honeymoon and while doing charity work in India. It seemed like the perfect cover. And director Sheona McDonald did seem to be so enthralled with the elements. However, the details are unveiled in an okay way. It’s not boring nor horribly done, but I found a documentary like The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014) to be more engaging. At the time of Cotten’s supposed death, his clients were owed $215 million (CAD). However, only $46 million was recovered, leaving a $169 million shortfall.

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