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Two Spirits cover photo

Two Spirits 2009


Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Russell Martin
Directed by Lydia Nibley
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, Native American Studies, Anthropology, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Gender Studies, Multicultural Studies, Sociology

Date Entered: 07/16/2010

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

For Fred Martinez, a young Native American adolescent living in the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States, being on a crossroads was a dangerous place to be. In the complex gender system of the Navajo, an individual can be identified as male, female, or having attributes of both. Fred was nádleehí, a male with a feminine spirit. As the victim of a brutal hate-crime attack, where he lived and what he was mattered. With his story as a backdrop, this emotionally charged documentary explores the difficult issues of intersection of race, culture and sexuality in modern day society.

Composed primarily of interviews with family and friends, Navajo tribal members and experts, and gay, lesbian and transgender activists and social justice advocates, the film does an excellent job of presenting information about the two spirit belief and the need for understanding, awareness and preservation of the tradition. Despite a brief segment that discusses the founding of the Mattachine Society, the first gay organization in the U.S., which distracts from the main story and seems out of place in this otherwise well-edited narrative, the film is recommended.