XY Chelsea (2019), directed Tim Travers Hawkins, is a character driven documentary about Chelsea Manning following her release from Fort Leavenworth Military Prison when her 35 year prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama prior to his leaving political office. Manning was convicted by military court for passing along to WikiLeaks classified intelligence about the Iraq war.
The documentary allows us to get to know the real Chelsea stripping away the labels, a controversial figure much vilified, maligned and crucified by the American media, and tell her story in her own words and get at the heart of her essence. Although regretting her actions, she tells us that she did it because she wanted the American public to know the truth about what was really happening in Iraq. It’s a compelling documentary because it cuts through the noise to present her side of the story, her backstory, her prison ordeal, her activism, and follows the narrative of her life as she transitions.
The documentary is full of twists and turns that creates dramatic tension that moves the film. The documentary is well-crafted making use of narration, diverse angle shots, editing techniques, archival footage, out of focus and superimposed images, first person interviews, third-person interviews, and still photography to create a fascinating film about Chelsea Manning. The documentary raises many important questions and issues, and I believe it will for you too. It exposes the truth and lies behind the Iraq war.
XY Chelsea is a compelling documentary where principles and doing the right thing regardless of gender issues collide with patriarchal authority and agenda. But more importantly, it tells the story that one person can make a difference. The director has succeeded in creating an intimate portrait of Chelsea Manning against the simmering tensions and hostilities she invokes while pursuing the narrative of her life as a transgender woman ready to serve as an advocate for social change.