Georgie Girl

PBS Premiere: June 20, 2003Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

A viewer from Massachusetts asks: Georgie Girl was absolutely fascinating and brilliant. It would be very well-received on the American college/university lecture circuit. Any plans for a speaking tour, or something along those lines?

Annie Goldson: I have had requests from various universities in the U.S. and am always happy to discuss my work in such a context, given that I am a university professor here in New Zealand. I have had a few requests from various institutions, but haven't gotten around to organizing anything comprehensive. New Zealand is a long way away and to travel that distance requires some effort and expense. But the distributor of Georgie Girl, Women Make Movies, is very good at educational distribution, so should more opportunities arise, I'm sure that we could organize something of a tour. Thank you for your interest, I appreciate it.

Jeannie from North Carolina asks: Did you at any time during work on this film inquire as to, or did it become apparent that, there was a higher rate of diagnosed depression - including clinical, manic - both phase 1 and bipolar - among transsexuals than any other group of "normal" people?

Goldson: I did work with several support groups for transgendered people and transsexuals and was impressed with their effort and outreach. I do think depression and mental illnesses are an outcome of the social marginalization and economic impoverishment that many transgendered people have faced, and that these organizations play a vital supporting role in that community. Georgina herself, as she freely admits, attempted suicide in her youth and it is testimony to her strength and indeed to gradually changing social attitudes that she has become so successful. We did actually interview a couple from a support organization called Agender here in New Zealand, but given the prerogatives of the coherence of the edit we judged that, though the material was very interesting and pertinent, it lay outside the strongly narrative structure of Georgie Girl. Certainly, alone, their stories would make a compelling documentary.

A viewer from North Carolina asks: Thanks so much for doing this film. It was so beautifully done and sensitively articulated. Our country needs to see this. I am envious of the New Zealand spirit. What do you think the U.S. could learn from Georgie and her people?

Goldson: Thank you for your generous comments. I hope it will resonate with American audiences. New Zealand is an interesting country, it certainly does have spirit, although living here I would certainly not idealize it. I think every country has to confront its own past, and in that past, work towards some utopian vision of a better future. People engaged in some sense of social transformation have their challenges wherever they live. Having said that, however, for a country supposedly shaped by a macho tradition of "rugby, racing and beer," New Zealand has had a history of relatively socially progressive stances. For example, women have done extraordinarily well, and currently hold the top four constitutional positions, including Prime Minister. The country took a strong anti-nuclear stance in the 1970s, banning US nuclear ships, and that position is now mainstream. And it came out against apartheid in South Africa during the visit of the Springbok (South African) rugby team in 1981, although this became a divisive issue within the country. The relationship of indigenous culture to "settler" culture is also one that is at the forefront of our political life and is under constant negotiation. Maori were the original occupants of New Zealand, as you can see elsewhere on the website, yet like many first peoples were subject to unfair land confiscations, resource theft etc., by Pakeha (white settlers) during the colonial period in the mid-1850s. This history is now being addressed through a process of restitution, which is great. However, this is an ongoing, and at times, tense dialogue, that I'm sure will continue in my lifetime. At least, though, it is happening, there seems to be enough political will to address past injustices to ensure the country can progress. New Zealanders are relatively well educated and we have a reasonable public school system. Given the size of the country, only just reaching 4 million people, change ripples through quickly. Prejudices are broken down I think because people get to know each other. But as with any country, there are always issues to address.

Judith from Canada asks: There wasn't any mention of Georgina's father, other than to say that her parents had parted many years previously. What, if any, contact has there been with her father and sibling(s)?

Goldson: Georgina mentions her father briefly in the documentary: he and her mother separated when Georgina was a baby, hence she was raised on her grandparents' farm. Although her father had had something of a heroic status - he had been in the Maori Battalion, a unit that fought bravely and had huge losses in World War II, he had gotten into (to use Georgina's words) a "spot of bother" later on and ended up in jail. Her mother was a trained nurse and a good one, and given the financial difficulties she faced, needed to keep working. In fact, as Georgina relates in her book, Change for the Better, (read an excerpt) she has a full sister that she didn't know about until relatively recently. She did meet with her father and sister and I believe has cordial, though not close, relationships with them. Her mother remarried when Georgina was about 5. She went to live with her mother and step-father, who was a lawyer, and took his name Beyer as her surname. She has a half brother from that marriage, which also broke up. Her mother was an extraordinary woman, very beautiful and apparently an excellent nurse: her story, which is ultimately a sad one, is not dissimilar to that of many women of her age, who struggled to support children and maintain something of an income. As always, it is difficult to fit everything into a single documentary and we chose not to elaborate on Georgina's upbringing. However, her book has a lot more detail if you can find it in the U.S.