Changing The Game

Michael Barnett’s dynamic documentary takes us into the lives of three high school athletes—all at different stages of their athletic seasons, personal lives, and unique paths as transgender teens.

December 12, 2019

Their stories span across the U.S.—from Sarah, a skier and teen policymaker in New Hampshire, to Andraya, a track star in Connecticut openly transitioning into her authentic self. The film centers on Mack Beggs, who made headlines last year when he became the Texas State Champion in wrestling and was heralded as a hero by some while receiving hate and threats from others.

Trans athletes have to work harder than their cisgender peers in order to thrive in their field while also having the courage and resilience to face daily harassment and discrimination. The kids in this film have found sports as a way to channel the negativity around them into a positive, to gain a sense of self-worth and validation. This film is their urgent, articulate plea for acceptance.

FESTIVALS
2019: TRIBECA (WORLD PREMIERE)

AWARDS
AT&T AUDIENCE AWARD—BEST DOCUMENTARY

Artifishal, directed by Josh “Bones” Murphy and produced by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, does tell that story. But that story is only the embers of something more, which the film steadily exhales over, oxygenates and causes to flame up.

In an inspired gambit, Artifishal takes a swerve into the metaphyscial, framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive. The contention of the film-makers is that while it may be human nature to seek dominion and control over the rest of nature, the very thing we need to survive is precisely that which defies our control, that thing which, when we seek to subjugate it, instead either slips through our nets, or is caught and dies.

If we drive the wild to extinction, the film suggests, we will bring our own that much closer.

“I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” said Murphy in a phone conversation near the end of a tour to promote the movie, which debuted at the Tribeca film festival after a tour of screenings in Patagonia stores.

“At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves.”

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