Chelsea McMullan’s documentary-musical, My Prairie Home is a deeper look on the life of transgender indie singer/songwriter Rae Spoon. Also the title of Rae’s latest album, the film takes you on a journey through the artist’s personal stories of self-discovery and memories that turns the viewer into a confided friend.
Growing up in a very religious family, Rae talks about gender identity and the struggles of not being accepted or understood by family members. Rae admits to communicate better with music, so what other way to connect with this story but having it sung to you word-by-word? In a greyhound bus, you follow Rae’s steps while going from place to place sharing Rae’s fears, accomplishments and the most intimate stories, as if you were a friend.
As a meditation, the film has a slow pace and can be melancholic at times but brings a fresh sense quirkiness that it’s adorable to experience. It’s refreshing to see how McMullan developed a close connection with Rae to make it comfortable to bare all in front of the camera.
Follow the link bellow to check more about My Prairie Home.
Chelsea McMullan and I talk about My Prairie Home, her documentary screened at Sundance.
Gomes: I would like to know about your relationship with Rae, how the idea of talking about this story?
McMullan: The first time I heard Rae’s music I remember having a visceral reaction to their voice. My whole body began to tingle, and I felt a sense of nostalgia and longing. When Rae and I began collaborating and they slowly opened up and told me their story, I realized it’s all in their music. Rae carefully wraps secrets in their sparse melodic voice. This spawned the idea not only to make a documentary but also to use Rae’s music, to tell their story (hence the documentary musical). I felt like it was an important story to tell because Rae’s history is quite unique and yet very Canadian, because they transcend gender in a way that scares people, and because we have all had the experience of feeling like an outsider at home.
I sort of saw Rae’s journey home as mythological one, it reminded me of Odysseus’s journey in the Iliad. Rae returns to the people who both love and reject them, to an endless and complicated landscape, and to the versions of their identity that have been left behind, like ghosts scattered across the prairies.
Gomes: What you hope viewers would take away from My Prairie Home? What has been the response from the audience so far?
McMullan: My intention for the film was to create a biography of a feeling. I want an audience to really understand in a visceral way what it’s like to be Rae Spoon. Also if it exposes more people to Rae’s music then that’s great too. I have so much respect for them as an artist. I don’t think there are too many artists out there like Rae, who have total autonomy over their work. They don’t play the “industry” game, instead they just sing it out and let the music speak for itself. Finally, my films are not overtly political but I would love if this film starts a conversation about gender. Since meeting Rae my perspective on gender has totally shifted. It’s liberating when you sort of let the binary fall away and just be. I think we are on the cusp of a gender revolution. Gender-neutral washrooms for all!
Gomes: What are you working on next?
McMullan: I am currently working on two documentaries.
Twelve years ago a middle-aged Canadian former police officer named John Hanmer was mysteriously murdered in the Philippines. Surviving him were five children named Michael, Shannon, Michael, Shannon, and John Jr. No, the duplication of names is not a mistake. Left behind and scattered across the globe by John’s troubled life and tragic death, they have one thing in common – each has been left to resolve their father’s past without him.
The other film I’m working on is the second installment in a trilogy of short documentary films I am making about western ideology inspired by Umberto Eco’s essay travels in hyper reality (Rae is doing the score). It’s about the World Famous Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington Alberta (pop.200). Housed in a double-wide trailer the museum presents taxidermized gophers dressed up as members of the community arranged in elaborate dioramas depicting idyllic scenes of daily rural life. The film begins retelling the creation of the Torrington Gopher Hole Museum and then unravels into an analytical deconstruction of representation and abstraction of reality.