“The Stroll,” by Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker, is a riveting documentary about transgender women of color in the 1990s and early 2000s engaging in gender work in an area called the Stroll in the meatpacking district of lower Manhattan. It is a story of despair, brotherhood and triumph.
From the very beginning, it turns out that this film is about someone from this community who reclaims his own narrative, a fact that the film reveals when we skillfully cut the back and forth with Kristen in the editing room. From a technical and political point of view, “the Stroll” is a great achievement. Technically, the film is shot beautifully and quickly. With only one hour and 25 minutes running time, the audience really wants to see more. We fall in love with this group of women and want them to earn more and more.
Politically, this film is another example of the transformative power of cinema. It is part of a medium traditionally guarded by white cismas with their limited perspective, but the floodgate is opening. Lovell and Drucker do not take an “imperial overseer” approach to this issue. When we see Tabytha, Ceyenne, Egyptt and our other colorful and vibrant women, we see Kristen right next to them. She creates space for these women to share their stories and at the same time show empathy as a sister and participant.
As a result, the film is haunting and looks more like a whole picture than a narrow one, like other films on similar topics. Lovell serves us as a guide through the bellies of the disenfranchised as she reveals her own story and that of her sisters. Sisterhood is a major theme of this story, as with many transgender women of color on the boardwalk. The community was all they had. Many of the young girls and women from the meat district during the walk were runaways or were expelled from their families. With nowhere to go and being discriminated against in the workplace because of their transition, transgender women of color in this region turned to gender work to earn a living.