IDFA X De Balie: Transition + Talk

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Noortje Smeltink, Zara Toksöz
Jordan Bryon, Monica Villamizar
Running time
USA, Colombia
Farsi, Dari, English
Australian Jordan Bryon, an experienced journalist and filmmaker, had been in Afghanistan for five years when the Americans withdrew from the country in 2021 and the Taliban took power.

This transition more or less coincided with his own physical changes: as a trans man, he started taking testosterone injections and was awaiting surgery. For a report for The New York Times, Bryon gains access to a Taliban unit. While he films with them and is accepted as a man among men, he struggles with the moral implications of his choices.

If he were to reveal his trans identity, it would endanger him irrevocably. At the same time, not being honest about it feels like cheating. The Taliban’s acceptance of him is also confusing because it leads him to feel sympathy for them, when because of their ideas he should feel only hatred and fear. Transition is a film full of paradoxes that offers a glimpse into the exceptional life of a trans man.

After the screening, Jordan Bryon joins us on stage with the famous Dutch journalist Thomas Erdbrink to discuss the effects filming can have on the lives of people in sensitive positions who live in conflict-affected regions.

About the speakers

Jordan Bryon is a story activist specializing in documentary films and docu-series. Jordan has freelanced for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, BBC, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, dozens of NGOs, several UN agencies and production companies internationally. His documentary film, Birds of the Borderlands (Jordan, 2017), screened at 15 international film festivals.
Currently living in Afghanistan, Jordan has directed, filmed and produced Battle Dogs (Afghanistan, 2018), a 10-part docuseries for Discovery Channel and episodes for Animal Planet. Jordan was cinematographer on two feature films for Canadian cinema, Hidden Reel (Afghanistan, 2018) and Labor of Life (Afghanistan, 2018).

Thomas Erdbrink is one of the Netherlands’ most prominent international journalists, after living and working as a correspondent in the Middle East for 25 years. Erdbrink is known for his series Onze Man in Tehran. He was a presenter of Zomergasten, NOS and NRC correspondent and columnist at de Volkskrant. Erdbrink was the New York Times Tehran bureau Chief between 2011 and 2019 and made regular appearances on CNN. At the same time he integrated into Iran, married and learned Persian. After he was banned from working by the Iranian authorities in 2019, he became the Northern Europe Bureau Chief for the NYTimes. In 2022 he resigned and made a documentary series in Afghanistan about life under the Taliban: Onze Man bij de Taliban, which was awarded the Zilveren Nipkowschijf of 2023, the Dutch TV Critics Award for Best TV show of the year.


Monica VillamizarCo-Director and journalist
Farzad FetratVideographer
Thomas ErdbrinkJournalist

Photo: Neil Brandvold

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