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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Witness the power of love in the face of bigotry in ‘Southern Comfort’

Southern+Comfort
‘Southern Comfort’

Kate Davis’s moving documentary, “Southern Comfort,” follows Robert Eads, a transman living in the deep American South, as he fights a losing battle with ovarian cancer. Having had his efforts to receive treatment repeatedly thwarted by prejudiced doctors, Eads accepts his fate and trudges forward with classic Southern grit.
Segmented into seasons, the film starts in the spring, with a pensive Eads ruminating over his dire situation. Though Eads speaks of his impending death with a cool candor, one can sense the sad, dark cloud that looms over his head. The films condenses Eads’s final year of life into a series of touching vignettes that provide a powerful glimpse into his painful reality.
“Southern Comfort” centers on Eads and his chosen family as they try to make most of their last year together. The film explores each individual’s relationship with Eads, relationships that are complex and intense, yet supportive and loving.
Early in the film, viewers are introduced to Eads’s girlfriend, the coy and sophisticated Lola. Lola, a transwoman, met Eads at Southern Comfort, an annual conference for members and allies of the transgender community. Her relationship with Eads is both deeply affectionate and emotionally symbiotic. Truly committed to Eads, Lola works to make his final days as comfortable as possible. 
Also, featured in the film are friends and fellow transmen, Maxwell and Cas. Eads’s relationship with the two men is warm and paternal. The three men bond over common experience, sharing heart-rending personal anecdotes about their encounters with transphobia.
As Eads’s condition worsens, these individuals rally around him, forming a small, but strong support system. Despite the different dynamics among the system’s members, it is clear that Eads has had a profound impact on each of their lives and is the link that connects them all.
“Southern Comfort” is a visual journal. Revealing and emotional, the film’s scenes are arranged to create a portrait of people facing extreme adversity while simply trying to live their lives. The film relies on interview footage and shots depicting everyday life, including its joys and trials.
The intentional editing serves to minimize distraction, keeping Eads and his family at the film’s forefront. The audience is therefore able to fully feel the gravity of the situation communicated through each person’s words and actions.
Despite being released over a decade ago, “Southern Comfort” remains relevant, especially considering the recent intensification of efforts to increase trans visibility and to obtain fundamental rights for transgender individuals. The film speaks to a new generation of people who are mobilizing to fight the same persistent prejudices. A tender testament to the power of love, “Southern Comfort” challenges audiences to confront the fact that insidious prejudices still exist and that systems of gender oppression must be dismantled. 
The UMB Film Series will be hosting a screening of “Southern Comfort” on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom.