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Coming of Age Is Like Being Between a Spoon and a Fork
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Spork Winner of the kid’s Hamburg Film Festival

Waking up in the morning after sleeping wearing 3D glasses in order to remember last night dreams is the best thing that happens to Spork (Savannah Stehlin) on a daily basis.  The 14-year old faces a harsh coming of age reality that starts with growing up in a trailer park with her crazy biker brother Spit, her dance queen neighbor Tootsie Roll and her mother’s cemetery plot out back in the garden. She is constantly being mobbed at school since she is a hermaphrodite and the name Spork which is an object between a fork and a spoon doesn’t help.  This film is not like the book Middlesex which dives into the psychological feelings of a hermaphrodite. The director said he wanted a character that was extreme and on the outside. His first thoughts were to the main character in a wheel chair but decided this would be better since there is only a small percent of people that have this problem.  Nevertheless for me, Spork seems to be more of a girl or a gay guy than a tough boy with a hidden feminine side. Her arch enemies are a group of girls who are Brittany Spears look-alikes.  They represent everything that Spork isn’t: popular, secure and know exactly what they want. What they want is to win the dance talent show for the prize money and no one will get in their way, especially Spork.  But Spork is tired of being bullied, and, using her determination and help from a unique group of outsiders, Tootsie Roll, Chuk and her brother Spit, she manages not only to win the contest but also finds out who her true friends are as well as finding her self-respect.

This was the first time I have seen a director being overwhelmed by the amount of questions from an audience. After a film there is the usual silence where the moderator starts asking questions or it begins like a slow wave of questions until people build up their confidence to ask something. But in this case it was an amazing force of curiosity from the kids who were trying to understand the culture and lifestyle difference in this film. Director S. B. Ghuman, Jr. was the perfect director to handle this with his humor and light heartedness. He explained that this movie was semi-autobiographical.  His first girlfriend resembled Tootsie Roll who in this film was a cool trailer-park chick who taught Spork how to break dance by using the game Twister. The film took him 18 days to shoot since he had done a lot of preparation.  His casting was done from the streets and he literally just picked whom he thought fit.  So there were no professional actors in this film.

Spork has a real dog which is stuffed and slides around on roller skates as her pet. Seeing a stuffed dog brought concerns from the audience since they thought he had actually killed the dog for the movie. He indicated that he feared that the animal rights groups would think that but reassured them that he had rented the object d’art from a taxidermist.  The kids then shifted their questions about what kind of dog it was and did Spork really rip off the head of this stuffed dog etc. Ghuman smiling replied, “A Husky and no it would have been too expensive to rip off the head and then duct tape it back again since the dog cost 1000 dollars a day to rent.”  Later he told me that he had searched for a stuffed husky since that was the kind of dog he had had as a child, but had to settle for this mutt instead. It was the only stuffed dog he could find.  This idea of hermaphrodite was not clear to many of the members of the audience.  Even though Ghuman tried to explain it, I am sure they still went home confused.  Another element of confusion for the kids was: are these kids living full time in trailer parks while going to school. Here in Hamburg the kids only associate trailer parks with camping at the North sea. So it seemed pretty strange to them that people actually live in those vehicles all year around.

On the one side we see Spork’s real life but we also have the chance to dive into her fantasy world where the world is colorful and the musical The Wiz is a significant role model. Ghuman pushes the boundaries with this film as well as integrating painterly skills which gives him the recognition enough to win Best Kid’s Film at the HFF.  He told me he is really excited about this film since it brought him to Hamburg, not to mention it was well received at the Tribeca film festival.  Now he is off to London.