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The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone on Netflix: a fierce trans advocate shines

The film’s mission, beyond Stone's story, is to increase awareness around transgender issues and become an education resource.

Australian docu-director Maya Newell offers the world a glimpse at a fierce transgender advocate in this impressive short film.

South Australia-based Closer Productions has had an impressive 2022. The award-winning collective made a loud statement out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival where Sophie Hyde’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was purchased by Hulu (owned by Disney) for an estimated $7m+ figure.

Read: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: a sex work film that works

That film has since gone on to be something of a surprise hit in Australian cinemas where a dearth of movies for grown-ups plus a tour by Hyde and stars Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack was a real boon for theatres throughout these continuing Covid doldrums. Thompson is also a strong contender for an Academy Award, too.

Read: ScreenHub interviews Georgie Stone: ‘I hope there’s more empathy for trans people’

Closer’s latest work could also find itself among Oscar’s eligible titles as Netflix-affiliated documentary short films do have a strong track record of gaining attention there. Following a world premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and screenings at Sydney Film Festival, Revelation Perth International Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest, The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone premieres this week on the streaming giant.

It is a 29-minute exploration of the titular teenage activist as she seeks to overturn antiquated laws around the governance of transgender individuals’ bodies. Maya Newell has made a gentle film, one unadorned with unnecessary theatrics and more interested in the dignity and the strength of its subject than the subjugation and suffering of transgender characters that is still all too common in stories of trans youth.

The film is a canny bit of acquisition from Netflix. While it is unlikely that Dreamlife will be the sort of movie that viewers actively go to the search bar to find, it is likely to pop up on viewers’ screens as they scan the platform or as the end credits role on a thematic referral.

Newell’s film would sit quite nicely alongside the likes of the recently launched Heartbreak High reboot and other international LGBTIQ+ titles. It is also nice to see the opportunity given to something such as this to boost Netflix’s local content numbers instead of just relying on big-budget adaptations like Boy Swallows Universe and trashy reality TV like Byron Baes.

Read: Heartbreak High, Netflix, review: showing respect, solidarity and consent

For Newell, this movie continues her run of documentary works to receive international attention. Both Gayby Baby and In My Blood it Runs were AACTA-nominated, played worldwide festivals, and received theatrical releases in the United States. Not too many local documentarians can claim such a feat.

Read: ‘I hated it so much’ – Byron Baes is upsettingly bad

For Closer Productions, the documentary follows a varied slate of products that includes Sophie Hyde’s 2014 dramatic feature 52 Tuesdays (a prize winner at the Berlin and Sundance festivals), which charted a year in the life of teenage girl as her parent transitions.

Hyde is a producer on The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone alongside Matt Bate, Lisa Sherrard and Newell. A significant slice of the funding came from crowdfunding as well as Screen Australia.

Despite its runtime, Newell’s film covers 19 years with early home videos of Georgie showing her before her transition (with its subject’s permission; Stone is a creative producer on the film and had control of what footage was used).

Read: Los Espookys is queer and wonderfully weird

Even as a young child, she was eloquent and defiant in her identity and the effect it had on her to be called a boy and to be ridiculed by classmates. Newell followed her subject intermittently since the age of 14 and we are privy to how her family, including mum and twin brother, are kind and supporting as she embarks upon a mission to change laws around what medical services trans youth can and cannot access.

The film’s mission beyond telling Georgie Stone’s story and to increase awareness around transgender issues is for Dreamlife to become an education resource for families and potentially schools, with the production team working with Transcend Australia to produce discussion guides. While the story is Australian, there is no reason why its message cannot travel across borders. It seems clear that young trans and non-binary individuals will embrace the film, but how convenient for them to also have such a film to show parents.

As Newell herself has said, ‘I know that people are going to learn so much from Georgie and her family as I have and I am excited about the conversations we will be able to lead that celebrate transgender people in all their brilliance and diversity across the world.’

And it’s Australian, too. It may not feature big stars or win major awards (yet?), but this is local screen content that we should support and be proud to see make it on the big international stage.

Georgie Stone has accomplished so much in such a short time – including being the first trans actor on Aussie soap Neighbours, starring as Mackenzie Hargreaves – that it’s almost a surprise that Dreamlife is only half an hour. But then again, we should embrace filmmakers knowing that short films can be just as effective.

And, in this case, it’s probably easier for the message to be made if it’s only made as a short and as a result Bryan Mason’s editing is efficient as he weaves a variety of time periods together with aplomb. I hope viewers come across The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone and see not just a delicate Australian film, but an important and impassioned young woman out to change the world.

The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone

Australia, 2022, 29 minutes

Director: Maya Newell

Producers: Sophie Hyde, Matt Bate, Lisa Sherrard and Maya Newell

The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone premieres on 22 September on Netflix.