Dawn, Her Dad, and Her Tractor – Canadian trans story of love and understanding
In Dawn, Her Dad, and Her Tractor, a young woman with a startling resemblance to John Andrew’s wife Miranda appears days before her funeral, igniting an odyssey towards understanding. His son Donald is now Dawn, home to mourn her mother and repair the estrangement with her Dad. As Dawn reconnects with her sister Tammy and her fiancé Byron, a new family order begins to emerge.
An ancient tractor becomes the focus for the mechanically-minded Dawn, but her father’s long-simmering resentments heighten tensions. Watching his daughter work to restore the tractor, he realizes that reclaiming this relationship depends on his own coming out: supporting Dawn publicly and fighting malicious small-town transphobia. As they restore the family tractor and work towards showing it as kind of memorial to Dawn’s mom, Dawn and her Dad cautiously rebuild their relationship and come to understand the mechanics of the heart.
Based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada, Shelley Thompson trained at RADA (UK); Canadian Film Centre (CFC2015); WOMEN IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR (2016/17); the NY WRITERS LAB (2018) supported by Meryl Streep/Nicole Kidman, and was selected for the BREAKING THROUGH THE LENS event, in Cannes, 2019.
She’s received and been nominated for Dora (Toronto) and Merritt (Halifax) awards for stage work, and Geminis and ACTRA awards for film/TV work, including, most recently:THE CHILD REMAINS, SPLINTERS, TRAILER PARK BOYS, and TWO PENNY ROAD KILL.
As a writer/director, her short films (DAWG, BATS, PEARLS) have screened internationally with her most recent, DUCK DUCK GOOSE winning Best Atlantic Short at FIN (Halifax International Film Festival). It was selected by Telefilm Canada’s for Not Short on Talent at Clermont-Ferrand, and was a finalist in CBC’s Short Film Faceoff.
Parent of a young trans man, the singer/songwriter T. Thomason, Thompson is a champion of LGBTQ issues.
Her first feature DAWN HER DAD & THE TRACTOR shot August 2020 in Nova Scotia, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Media Fund, The Harold Greenberg Fund, and Nova Scotia Creative Industries.
Read this CBC interview with Thompson
So thrilled that DAWN sold out her North American Premiere in Canada at Toronto’s InsideOut Film festival (May 27th to June 6th 2021)!! We were so delighted to be there.
Coping with the loss of a loved one in any circumstances is wrenching. But for John Andrew MacGinnis, struggling to cope with the loss of his beloved spouse, also coming to grips with the transition of his only son to a beautiful and resourceful daughter, creates layers on layers of bereavement.
When my child came out to me as trans, his father and I knew we would always support the child we loved. But for all of us it was a roller-coaster time. We couldn’t have predicted the sense of bereavement as we lost our daughter, but the euphoria as we gained a son. We hadn’t lost the person we loved, but were aware that pieces of our future and our past were being shelved: two decades of memories which could be places of pain for our child now; expectations, hopes, plans that all revolved around a world of binary-based expectations.
As my son was transitioning, he would joke that I was, too. I was shifting from years in front of the camera to becoming a writer and director watching from behind. My son’s journey inspired me to reach for whatever I imagined. This project – reflecting some of our story – had to be my first feature.
DAWN is intended for a broad audience: the queer community certainly, but any audience who enjoys family dramas. We hope DAWN will encourage conversation, understanding, and commitment to a community that is threatened by violence and inequity. I hope it will give parents an opportunity to reflect on how they support their queer children: that it will help us imagine the potential unlocked when communities and families love and support trans individuals.
Shooting this film was a joy for our enormously diverse cast and crew. It was made even more sweet, when, uncertain about when we’d create again, our team emerged after months of pandemic isolation to work together in a glorious Nova Scotia summer.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.