Skip to main content


USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, Documentaries)

Director: Susan Muska, Gréta Ólafsdóttir

One of the many chilling moments in this superb lo-lo-budget documentary occurs when a veteran US marshall reluctantly admits that there are residents in his Nebraska jurisdiction that do not consider people with any differences (race, religion, sexual persuasion) as human. This twisted hillbilly logic is then used to justify rape, beatings and murder.

Teena Brandon - a young girl who lived as a teenaged boy called Brandon Teena - was murdered along with a friend and a passing visitor in an isolated farmhouse. A nine month old infant was spared simply because the bungling assassins failed to bring enough ammunition.

The Brandon Teena Story is a tale of backwater ignorance told with immense passion. The documentary is a cinematic headstone for three innocents. On Christmas Eve 1992, two young white trash losers, fresh out of jail, decide to humiliate Brandon by revealing her gender to friends. After stripping her in front of assembled party guests, they abducted, sexually assaulted and viciously beat her. When it appeared that the local sheriff, himself a staunch bigot, would press charges, the pair decide to dispose of all witnesses. A week later, New Year's Eve 1993, Teena Brandon is shot dead while begging for her life.

The daily struggle against prejudice and the fatal results form a universal story, told simply and flying in the face of budget restrictions, rendered in an intriguing style and exhibiting a tremendous natural faculty for revealing human drama. Breathtaking new cinema encompassing a dark and shocking reality.

Born in the USA in 1958, Susan Muska has worked as as freelance cinematographer and producer specialising in social issues and reports on the US health system. Muska has made several short features for television. Gréta ólafsdóttir, born in 1957 in Iceland, has worked principally as an art, fashion and news photographer. The Brandon Teena Story is their first documentary.

See also...


"Mark Rappaport's brilliant new film is an ironic, fascinating and intellectually daunting examination of the classic era of Hollywood studio moviemaking. The film charts the frequently cruel and ... More »


"Gay men and lesbians - a forced marriage if ever there was one," quips lesbian activist Torie Osborn. Such is the base from which this insightful documentary works. The relationship between men and ... More »


Mostar, 1994. The Bosnian War is over; a Muslim woman picks over her beloved books and other heirlooms. Like most other inhabitants of the Muslim quarter of the city, she has lost almost everything ... More »


Director of the acclaimed Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer (MIFF 1990), Kenneth Bowser's Frank Capra documentary beats a path directly to the core of the life of one of ... More »


Just when you thought if was safe to be a miserly, exploitative, conniving Montgomery Burns-style CEO... Michael Moore is back! A giant by reputation as well as physical presence, Moore first made ... More »


Westerns, screw-ball comedies, film noir, detective thrillers, gangster flicks, even musicals - Howard Hawks, hailed as the quintes­sential auteur, tackled every possible film genre with equal ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director