Running Time: 87 min

Jacqueline (Jaq) Gares

United States

Film Website

Audience Award Winner: Feature Documentary
2016 Blackstar Film Festival

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Special Guest

CeCe McDonald


Confronting head on the violence transwomen of color regularly face, FREE CECE tells the story of CeCe McDonald, imprisoned after defending herself from a transphobic and racist attack and supported by an international campaign on her behalf.

What began as a simple trip to the store quickly became a nightmare for CeCe McDonald. Confronted with racist and homophobic slurs, McDonald and her friends found themselves in a physical altercation. McDonald was injured, but one of her attackers died after McDonald defended herself with a pair of scissors. Despite the obvious self-defense, McDonald was seen as the aggressor by the court, and she was sentenced a term of forty-one months in a men’s facility. Now free, McDonald uses her platform to advocate for the abolition of the prison industrial complex and for the civil rights of transwomen and women of color.

Producer Laverne Cox (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), herself a fierce advocate for trans rights, was instrumental in bringing this story to film. Recognizing that but for alternate circumstances, she could be in the same place, Cox interviewed McDonald both during her incarceration and after her release nineteen months later. Though the interviews in this film may be eye-opening and difficult, first-time documentary director Jaq Gares boldly refuses to shy away from addressing the vitriol and violence faced by transwomen of color.
— Elisa McGovern