Welcome to The DocArena Podcast in association with Film Ireland. My name is Ross Whitaker and every fortnight, I want to dig deeply into the motivations of documentary filmmakers – how do they choose their subject material and what approaches and strategies do they employ to fund, craft and distribute their work…


In this episode of The DocArena Podcast, Ross Whitaker talks to Jay Bedwani about his documentary Donna.

Main image: Jay Bedwani


Directed by award-winning filmmaker Jay Bedwani (My Mother), Donna is an intimate and candid portrait of the inspiring trans activist, artist and performer Donna Personna. It follows her journey to live authentically as herself and to reconnect with her family. 

Donna Personna first hit the stage with the legendary Cockettes. Ecstatic lip-synching in San Francisco’s downtown bars is a far cry from Donna’s Baptist upbring in San Jose; now in her seventies, her siblings have never seen her perform or meet her authentic self. 

The documentary begins when Donna is offered a chance to co-write a play about an overlooked episode in queer history, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, in which transgender women Donna knew stood up against police harassment. She writes a character to be played by a young transgender activist. Praised for her writing and emboldened by her new friends, she heads out of the city to be reunited with her sister, Gloria. 

This revealing and uplifting film is beautifully observed by Bedwani and features mesmerising moments recalled by Donna in her emerging writer’s voice. Donna is a film that shows the strength that can be drawn from your community and proves: it’s never too late to find your métier and truly blossom. 

Donna is released in cinemas and on Bohemia Euphoria 15th July.

Donna – Ffilm Cymru Wales

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