The Brandon Teena Story

Like The Hurricane, Boys Don’t Cry has attracted criticism for altering the facts of the case that inspired the film, so much so that the real Lana Tisdel has filed suit against the filmmakers for bringing about “a second death of Brandon Teena.” For those wanting to get a more authentic and personal recounting of the events leading up to Teena’s rape and murder, The Brandon Teena Story is thorough and unsettling.

It’s easy to see why this film won Best Documentary from the Berlin and Vancouver Film Festivals. Directors Susan Muska and Gréta Olafsdóttir manage to contact and gain vivid recollections from most of the surviving participants in the story. These include Brandon Teena’s relatives (who are all but ignored in Boys Don’t Cry), the bereaved father of Lisa Lambert (who was murdered along with Teena simply because she was there when the killers arrived), and the convicted murderers John Lotter and Thomas Nissen.

After looking at the actual story, the major differences between the documentary and the feature film appear to be ones of omission rather than fabrication. Boys Don’t Cry makes no mention of Philip DeVine, who was killed along with Teena and Lambert. It also abridges Teena’s long string of forgeries and underplays the previous girlfriends who thought she was a man. The documentary reveals that the economically depressed Falls City, Neb., had an unusually high violence rate for a town of its size. In addition, the documentary indicates that Nissen, not Lotter, may have been the primary aggressor in the attacks (the movie makes Nissen look slightly better). Lotter’s and Nissen’s recollections are expectedly shocking, if evasive (Lotter excuses himself by saying that he was trying to protect Tisdel from Teena’s “brainwashing” and that he didn’t actually rape Teena, because he didn’t ejaculate “inside” her).

Actually, the most chilling moment of The Brandon Teena Story comes toward the end when Tisdel and Lotter’s sister perform an eerie karaoke duet. The scene indicates that some healing has come to Falls City after the murder but that its traces remain.

Categories: Movies