Prodigal Sons


1h 27m 2008

Brief Synopsis

Follows three siblings--a transgender woman, a gay man and their adopted brother who discovers he's the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth--back to their Montana hometown, where a powerful story of an entire family's transformation unfolds.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
2008
Distribution Company
First Run Features; First Run Features

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m

Synopsis

Follows three siblings--a transgender woman, a gay man and their adopted brother who discovers he's the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth--back to their Montana hometown, where a powerful story of an entire family's transformation unfolds.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
2008
Distribution Company
First Run Features; First Run Features

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 27m

Articles

Prodigal Sons - PRODIGAL SONS - Acclaimed 2008 Documentary by Kimberly Reed


Halfway through Kimberly Reed's documentary Prodigal Sons, her older brother Marc, who was adopted before she was born, tracks down his biological mother. Her name is Rebecca Welles and Marc discovers that he is the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. That dramatic revelation would be the focus of any other documentary but in Reed's study in family, identity, sibling rivalry and mental illness it's simply another dimension of a very personal story.

Filmmaker Kimberly Reed was born Paul McKerrow, the second of three brothers in Helena, Montana family, captain and quarterback of the high school football and voted most likely to succeed in his graduating class. Soon after her younger brother, Todd, came out as a gay man in San Francisco, Paul McKerrow had sex reassignment surgery and became a woman, Kimberly Reed, the person Paul always felt she really was. Prodigal Sons opens on Kimberly returning home for the first time since her operation. In addition to attending her high school reunion and introducing the reborn Kim to her friends and schoolmates, Kimberly hopes to reconnect with her estranged older brother, Marc, now a husband and a father in Washington State, and suffering from the undiagnosed symptoms stemming from a brain injury in his twenties. They become closer than ever: Marc invites Kimberly to come with him to meet Oja Kodar, Welles' life partner in the final decades of his life and Marc's last connection to his bloodline (his mother, Rebecca, dies before they can meet in person) and they really start communicating about their feelings of family, the past and who they really are. But it's short lived. While discovering his identity gives Marc insight to understanding Kimberly's identity (and vice versa), his mental condition starts to deteriorate and his behavior becomes erratic and at times violent.

Prodigal Sonsis a film about identity: Kimberly's journey to come to terms with the past she has previously rejected outright, Marc's sentimental attachment to his high school days (his memory is fragmented since the accident and that era is the last time he has a clear recollection of his past), and Marc's precarious slide into uncontrollable rage due to the still undiagnosed problems stemming from his brain injury. The caring family man turns angry and abusive as unresolved resentment bubbles to the surface in these episodes. "I know this is not me," he reflects in calmer moments, remorseful and ashamed of his behavior. His words echo Kimberly's words to him earlier, when she explained how painful it was for her to be shown pictures of Paul, the past (and identity) she has tried to outrun: "That wasn't me."

Both stories intertwine through Reed's family portrait, siblings helping one another coming to terms with their identities past and present (it's Marc who reminds Kimberly that Paul is a part of who she is, whether she wants to acknowledge it or not) and reconciling their self-image with the way the world sees and knows them. Reed is matter-of-fact about her transformation and open about her personal journey, and just as important she is honest about what she sees in Marc's deterioration into a person she no longer recognizes: angry, aggressive, threatening and finally dangerous.

The greatest contribution of video filmmaking has surely been in the documentary field, where cheap, lightweight cameras enable filmmakers to get more intimate and personal. Reed brings her cameras to her high school reunion and family gatherings to record conversations and confrontations, and what she discovers and reveals is often surprising, to her as well as us, which makes the journey all the more interesting. We can imagine that she embarked on Prodigal Sons as a way to confront her journey, but Marc's story is just as compelling and the evolution of their relationship sheds light on both of their journeys and constantly reframes their stories. Ultimately Prodigal Sons explores the complexity of identity and it offers a painfully honest look at the face of mental illness in the body of a loved one. It's fascinating of course but its intimacy also makes it as involving as any cinematic fiction. Some of the footage is harrowing, some of it moving, but all of it fearlessly real and affecting.

First Run's DVD release is mastered from the original video footage and shows the distinctive color and clarity of digital filmmaking. The sound reflects the conditions of shooting (in cars, in crowds, in open, echo-y spaces) but is well-mixed and Reed's narration helps clarify scenes. A 20-minute "Questions & Answers" featurette intercuts footage of Kimberly Reed (along with members of her family) answering questions at post-screening discussions from multiple events. "The Return of Prodigal Son" is Reed's "sermon," a speech she gave to her hometown church following a screening of the film in which she reflects on the parable of the prodigal son and its relation to her own personal journey and to her film. "Words from The Family" features written post-scripts from family members Marc, Carol, Todd, Claire and Kim concerning the project and the experience. All of them support the film and its message.

For more information about Prodigal Sons, visit First Run Films. To order Prodigal Sons, go to TCM Shopping.

by Sean Axmaker
Prodigal Sons - Prodigal Sons - Acclaimed 2008 Documentary By Kimberly Reed

Prodigal Sons - PRODIGAL SONS - Acclaimed 2008 Documentary by Kimberly Reed

Halfway through Kimberly Reed's documentary Prodigal Sons, her older brother Marc, who was adopted before she was born, tracks down his biological mother. Her name is Rebecca Welles and Marc discovers that he is the grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. That dramatic revelation would be the focus of any other documentary but in Reed's study in family, identity, sibling rivalry and mental illness it's simply another dimension of a very personal story. Filmmaker Kimberly Reed was born Paul McKerrow, the second of three brothers in Helena, Montana family, captain and quarterback of the high school football and voted most likely to succeed in his graduating class. Soon after her younger brother, Todd, came out as a gay man in San Francisco, Paul McKerrow had sex reassignment surgery and became a woman, Kimberly Reed, the person Paul always felt she really was. Prodigal Sons opens on Kimberly returning home for the first time since her operation. In addition to attending her high school reunion and introducing the reborn Kim to her friends and schoolmates, Kimberly hopes to reconnect with her estranged older brother, Marc, now a husband and a father in Washington State, and suffering from the undiagnosed symptoms stemming from a brain injury in his twenties. They become closer than ever: Marc invites Kimberly to come with him to meet Oja Kodar, Welles' life partner in the final decades of his life and Marc's last connection to his bloodline (his mother, Rebecca, dies before they can meet in person) and they really start communicating about their feelings of family, the past and who they really are. But it's short lived. While discovering his identity gives Marc insight to understanding Kimberly's identity (and vice versa), his mental condition starts to deteriorate and his behavior becomes erratic and at times violent. Prodigal Sonsis a film about identity: Kimberly's journey to come to terms with the past she has previously rejected outright, Marc's sentimental attachment to his high school days (his memory is fragmented since the accident and that era is the last time he has a clear recollection of his past), and Marc's precarious slide into uncontrollable rage due to the still undiagnosed problems stemming from his brain injury. The caring family man turns angry and abusive as unresolved resentment bubbles to the surface in these episodes. "I know this is not me," he reflects in calmer moments, remorseful and ashamed of his behavior. His words echo Kimberly's words to him earlier, when she explained how painful it was for her to be shown pictures of Paul, the past (and identity) she has tried to outrun: "That wasn't me." Both stories intertwine through Reed's family portrait, siblings helping one another coming to terms with their identities past and present (it's Marc who reminds Kimberly that Paul is a part of who she is, whether she wants to acknowledge it or not) and reconciling their self-image with the way the world sees and knows them. Reed is matter-of-fact about her transformation and open about her personal journey, and just as important she is honest about what she sees in Marc's deterioration into a person she no longer recognizes: angry, aggressive, threatening and finally dangerous. The greatest contribution of video filmmaking has surely been in the documentary field, where cheap, lightweight cameras enable filmmakers to get more intimate and personal. Reed brings her cameras to her high school reunion and family gatherings to record conversations and confrontations, and what she discovers and reveals is often surprising, to her as well as us, which makes the journey all the more interesting. We can imagine that she embarked on Prodigal Sons as a way to confront her journey, but Marc's story is just as compelling and the evolution of their relationship sheds light on both of their journeys and constantly reframes their stories. Ultimately Prodigal Sons explores the complexity of identity and it offers a painfully honest look at the face of mental illness in the body of a loved one. It's fascinating of course but its intimacy also makes it as involving as any cinematic fiction. Some of the footage is harrowing, some of it moving, but all of it fearlessly real and affecting. First Run's DVD release is mastered from the original video footage and shows the distinctive color and clarity of digital filmmaking. The sound reflects the conditions of shooting (in cars, in crowds, in open, echo-y spaces) but is well-mixed and Reed's narration helps clarify scenes. A 20-minute "Questions & Answers" featurette intercuts footage of Kimberly Reed (along with members of her family) answering questions at post-screening discussions from multiple events. "The Return of Prodigal Son" is Reed's "sermon," a speech she gave to her hometown church following a screening of the film in which she reflects on the parable of the prodigal son and its relation to her own personal journey and to her film. "Words from The Family" features written post-scripts from family members Marc, Carol, Todd, Claire and Kim concerning the project and the experience. All of them support the film and its message. For more information about Prodigal Sons, visit First Run Films. To order Prodigal Sons, go to TCM Shopping. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 26, 2010

Released in United States March 19, 2010

Released in United States 2008

Released in United States January 2009

Released in United States June 2009

Released in United States July 2009

Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (True Stories) January 6-19, 2009.

Released in United States Winter February 26, 2010

Released in United States March 19, 2010 (Los Angeles)

Shown at San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (Centerpieces) June 18-28, 2009.

Shown at SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival (Silver Spectrum) June 15-22, 2009.

Shown at Outfest: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Documentary Features) July 9-19, 2009.

Released in United States 2008 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Documentary Competition) October 30-November 9, 2008.)

Released in United States January 2009 (Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (True Stories) January 6-19, 2009.)

Released in United States June 2009 (Shown at San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (Centerpieces) June 18-28, 2009.)

Released in United States June 2009 (Shown at SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival (Silver Spectrum) June 15-22, 2009.)

Released in United States July 2009 (Shown at Outfest: Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Documentary Features) July 9-19, 2009.)