I Stand Corrected, one of the full-length films in Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival (www.threedollarbillcinema.org), is a remarkable documentary about a remarkable human being, Jennifer Leitham. Until six or so years ago, Jennifer was John Leitham, a brilliant jazz bassist who once worked with the Velvet Fog, Mel Tormé. John Leitham's life (boy, young man, grown man) was, of course, complicated. The body he had was not the body he wanted. And the body he wanted was not the body he wanted those he played music with to see. John the woman was for home; John the man was for the stage. It wasn't until the sex-reassignment surgery that the woman at home became the woman on the stage, Jennifer.
The best part of this documentary, however, is not so much the story of how John became Jennifer, a story that's told with great warmth and intelligence by Jennifer, but, for me at least, the discovery of a truly major American musical mind. Listening to the way Jennifer plays, which was the way John played, one has the impression that no obstructions exist between the ideas in her head and their expression on the instrument. And her ideas are by no means simple but profound and complex. Furthermore, she has a great sense of swing. This, indeed, is her real genius: She is able to compress her complicated thinking into rhythms that are not hard to follow, that speak to the body directly. There is no poetry without music, no music without the dance. Jennifer Leitham is an American original. Northwest Film Forum, Sat May 5, 7:15 pm.