The topic of a documentary generally makes or breaks the film. Loads of factors come into play including the look, the sounds, and the pacing. But it all amounts to squat if the actual subject of the film isn't interesting or unique in some way. Without a great story holding it all together, a production can quickly become something people watch in order to fall asleep at night. Background noise.
"The Sound of Identity" focuses on a woman prepping for her role in an upcoming opera. So far, sounds pretty cut and dried - until you learn that Lucia Lucas, the star of the show, is actually preparing to do a first in the opera industry. Something that has not only never been done in the USA, but has never been done anywhere. Lucia is a trans woman, and she is preparing to play the leading role in "Don Giovanni" as Don Giovanni. It really doesn't sound like a big deal in today's world, but in the world of opera, it is huge. Yet here's the kicker... this film uses Lucas's orientation as the backbone of the film, but the film itself is more about the journey of life, and the journey to the stage. The emotional ride. Yes, Lucia Lucas is doing something that has never been done before - but "The Sound of Identity" is about so much more than that.
Now, I've never been much of a fan when it comes to opera. I love music, I even enjoy musicals... but just never gave opera much thought. Yes, I've seen video but as Lucas herself states, seeing it on a screen and seeing it live are two completely different beasts. I should really give it another chance, I know that - and I believe James Kicklighter knows it as well. Why? Because aside from the obvious topic of this film, aside from the journey from rehearsal to stage, aside from the fear that nobody will come... this film really has one big message hidden in plain sight. This is a medium that is super expensive to create, requires ridiculous amounts of talent to produce and perform, yet lacks the support of the mainstream. It's a struggling enterprise.
From a production standpoint, this film looks and sounds fantastic. This is definitely not your standard indie, low-budget documentary. But what is there really to say aside from that? It's a documentary. Complete with interviews, segments, interviews, and the overarching story. I will say this however, this film looks better than most big-name studio documentaries I've seen lately. Of that there is no question.
Now, my concern when starting this movie was that it didn't matter what it looked like. It was about a subject I normally wouldn't go out of my way to learn about, it was a documentary, and it was an hour and a half. The truth is that there is so much more here than what you expect, most people will find something here that interests them. As I wrote above, the "Don Giovanni" aspect gets the front-page billing, but its all the other aspects that keep this film fresh, and the pacing on-track. By the time "Performance Night" hit my screen I was fully invested.
When it's all said and done, "The Sound of Identity" is a film that offers a lot more than on the label - but don't get me wrong, it also doesn't misrepresent itself. It's a documentary - and those who enjoy a good doc will enjoy this. Those who also enjoy opera in general will love it even more. All I can really say at the end of the say is that most people won't regret their time spent with this flick. It won't matter if you like opera or you don't. It's a little informative, a little touching - and reminds you that you can't live your life for other people, as stated by Lucas herself. Casting a trans woman as Giovanni is only the tag-line, only the hook - because with this film, there's simply so much more. Four stars.