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(An official selection for the Documentary Competition at Geena Davis’s Bentonville Film Festival Aug.10-16 and official selection at Austin’s AGLIFF 2020 (All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) Aug. 6-16, the documentary was the proud winner of Audience Choice at the Paley Center for Media DocPitch Competition. Learn where it plays next at Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not give just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

Documentaries on comedians often look at the balance of personal versus public. For Julia Scotti, the art on stage is about taking old comedy and making it new again, but this time as a woman. Born as Rick Scotti, a comedian in the 80s focused on “sad sack” jokes and some homophobic and transphobic fueled jokes, Rick leaves comedy and during and after his third marriage transitions to her true self: Julia.

Through the documentary we also observe the relationship with her son and daughter, the son having gone into the family business of being funny. Julia and the children regret the way they were kept apart but appreciate the new found relationship with Julia as adults. The core of the film is Julia following her own stage persona with her son while watching tapes and recalling the moments that led to questioning her gender.

Directed by first-time female doc filmmaker (at 72) Susan Sandler (writer of Golden Globe nominated Crossing Delancey), the film is executive-produced by Paul Szynol, a regular on the festival circuit. During the film a fellow comedian notes that Rick was funny but Julia is someone on stage that warrants attention. And it is true that as “the crazy old lady of comedy” she transforms not only into her true self but into a more enlightened comedian.

While comedian documentaries often blend in the typical struggle of telling jokes on stage that impacts those around them, for Julia, the stage serves as a safe place to come out and to explore, leading only to more positive relationships. An unexpected journey and comeback story unlike any other, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is a welcome story in 2020.

– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)

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Melanie Addington likes watching movies and has worked with the Oxford Film Festival since 2006 in various capacities and became Executive Director in August 2015. She also directs, writes, and produces films and serves on the Mississippi Film Alliance as President. She co-founded OxFilm, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council's program to lend equipment to Oxford filmmakers.

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