Game Face

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 13, 2015

'Game Face'
'Game Face'  

Impeccably directed by cinematographer Michiel Thomas, "Game Change" is an emotional look at two gay athletes in various stages of their careers.

Fallon Fox is a transgender female who has worked her way up through the ranks of MMA prize-fighting. Having kept her sex change a secret, she worries what will happen when people find out. As expected, when the truth is revealed, things get complicated for her. Some feel she shouldn't be competing in a female division. Some feel there should be a separate transgender division. And others whole-heartedly support her. It's a tough place to be, and Thomas sensitively showcases her struggles by following her journey through a variety of matches as well as her coming out process.

Terence Clemens was an Artesia High School basketball star, until rumors of his sexuality hit the streets and he was forced to change schools. Moving to Crenshaw High, he got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up spending almost a year in prison. Afterwards, he got back into basketball, ultimately landing a scholarship at a two-year college in Oklahoma. But the fear around his sexuality causes him to remain in the closet, struggling with when he should come out and even if he should.

The two stories are a good showcase for what younger athletes go through during college years, and what professional athletes go through when hiding a secret. We not only see the extra hurdles Fallon has to go through to get certified to fight in the MMA, but we see the toll it takes on Terrence when he's not allowed to be who he wants to be.

While this film might preach to the choir for LGBT audiences, doc fans and sports enthusiasts will find the stories compelling, especially since Thomas smartly adds a bit of suspense to the proceedings: Namely, a World Championship fight for Fox, and a National Championship tournament for Clemens. Both of these sequences play out like "Hoosiers" or "Warrior," and will have the audience breathless and cheering for the film's subjects.

And that's what's so interesting: Even though the film is focused on Fox and Clemens' sexuality, we start to forget about that and begin focusing on the two people in front of you. We like Fox and Clemens as people. Their sexuality and gender identification becomes secondary. That's an important thing to have happen, because if we can get films like this to wider audiences -- audiences that might be initially closed-minded to such athletes -- we might be able to inform, educate, and change a few perspectives. So while Fox and Clemens are both fascinating and inspiring people on their own, the film itself is inspired as well.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.