In April 2022, Chase Joynt, director of Framing Agnes (2022), visited Block Cinema for two evenings of programs. On the first night, a workshop and screening on Joynt’s filmmaking practice welcomed students and visitors interested in documentary media, trans studies, gender studies, and queer & trans archives. The workshop event was followed the next day by a screening of Joynt’s 2020 documentary No Ordinary Man (2020).
No Ordinary Man, the 2020 documentary directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt, chronicles the life and legacy of the transmasculine American jazz bandleader and pianist, Billy Tipton (1914 – 1989), while also offering moving, thoughtful, and incisive commentaries on the history of trans representation and identity in the United States. No Ordinary Man brings together archival materials, interviews with trans historians, artists, activists, and cultural critics, and re-enactments by transmasculine actors interpreting pivotal moments in Tipton’s life. The film asks important questions about representation, archival memory, and performance: How do we think about the past? How do we fill in the gaps of underexplored stories? And how might performance serve as a critical intellectual tool in reclaiming trans history?
Chase Joynt participated in a post-screening discussion with program curator Nathan Lamp about the film and his work as a scholar and filmmaker. This event was presented with support from the Gender & Sexuality Studies program, The Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN), the Hoffman Visiting Artist Series, and the MFA in Documentary Media at Northwestern.
Listen to the Discussion
It was from this kind of multi-method research agenda that we were able to conclude with confidence that there is no moving image footage of Billy Tipton that anyone has ever been able to find or identify. While I think traditional documentarians might imagine that to be an incredible limitation, we immediately identified it as an extraordinary opportunity to think beyond the ways in which we’ve come to rely on archives as a way to tell certain kinds of truths about persons, people, or things.Chase Joynt on performance as a methodology.