PEACE OF MIND

(76 min., HD/ 16mm, 2015)

“Peace of Mind is a portrait of trans artist-activist Flo McGarrell that meditates on collaboration, longing, and loss. Cronenwett blends documentary with lush image-making and a startlingly emotional interiority.”

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Cary Cronenwett's beautifully constructed documentary is at once a poetic, highly personal and generously balanced portrait of the late trans artists and filmmaker Flo McGarrell. Frameline Audiences will fondly remember Maggots and Men, a stunning collaboration in which Cronenwett helmed the cinematic shipwreck of transmasculine sailors and Flo was the film’s brilliant art director. Focusing on the final chapter of his short life, this documentary shows Flo realizing a lifelong goal by becoming director of the FOSAJ Art Center in Jacmel, Haiti, a southern coastal town known for its artistic culture. His tenure at FOSAJ proves transformative, although not without controversy, as the center becomes a refuge for queer community—and identity, influence, and privilege inform the subsequent process of cultural negotiation. Bringing this rich tapestry to the screen, Cronenwett summons an experimental visual landscape alongside archival footage, evoking the utopian motivation of FOSAJ’s outside artists. This impulse is never stronger than in the film’s creative resurrection of the duo’s unfinished film project, Kathy Goes to Haiti, based on the novel by Kathy Acker. The film also weaves interviews with local artists and intimates, including Sue Frame, who recounts Flo’s death during the devastation earthquake of 2010. Out of the still evident rubble of that overwhelming disaster, Flo’s legacy and memory nurture one small but hopeful strand of renewal.   – Rob Avila