♪♪ ♪♪ -Next on "POV," Angelo Madsen Minax returns home to rural Michigan after the death of his young niece.
What begins as an investigation becomes a personal journey.
-I learned a secret.
When you speak the pain's name, it dissipates.
-A lyrical portrait of family, grief, addiction, and identity, "North by Current" on "POV."
♪♪ -Stay tuned following this program to hear from the director and to find out how you can share your point of view.
-[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -In this world, most people think that who you are is a compilation of things that have happened to you.
Or a series of choices you made.
Maybe the circumstances you were born into.
Did you choose the right friends?
Did your mother love you good enough?
-[ Laughing ] -How did you become who you became?
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Line ringing ] -Hey.
How are you?
I'm doing it now.
What's the weather like there?
Do I need hats and gloves and stuff or...?
You gonna tell me what happened?
-You know, I guess they could -- they could do anything, but it'd be awfully hard to turn around and accuse her of murder when she was found not guilty of child abuse.
-Did she say that?
-I mean, there wasn't very far, after that, the prosecutor could go.
[ Vehicles passing in distance ] -...and Red Wings beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 last night.
98.5 UPS, "The Morning Hustle."
-♪ She's the kind of lady gonna love you twice ♪ ♪ Ain't gonna take no preacher's advice ♪ ♪ She's comin' on me like a hurricane ♪ ♪ I gotta see the movie 'cause her body's insane ♪ ♪ I'm gonna save your soul, sister ♪ ♪ I'm gonna save your soul ♪ ♪ I'm gonna save your soul, sister ♪ ♪ I'm gonna save your soul ♪ [ Static hisses on radio ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -...or maybe I just heard the -- the teenage years or something... [ Static ] [ Child speaking indistinctly, echoing ] [ Static ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -The town I grew up in is 10 miles south of the 45th parallel.
That's the halfway point between the equator and North Pole.
♪♪ It's an old sawmill town.
Surrounded by lakes, split by rivers and highways.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Static ] -It's said that when you enter this town, you enter the river time zone... where time has no meaning.
♪♪ [ Water rushing ] [ Baby crying, indistinct conversations ] -Grandma!
[ Conversations continue ] [ Dishes clinking ] Grandma!
[ Mixer whirring ] Grandma!
-I guess it went well.
He's not in jail.
So, I haven't -- I haven't asked anybody, though, what -- how it went, but I guess he went -- it went okay.
But we were really expecting the worst because, you know... [ Indistinct conversations ] -Want to say it?
-Eternal Father in Heaven, we gather together as a family to celebrate this Christmastime of the year.
We remember those members of our family that are not with us, long since departed, and we are grateful for their direction and guidance through our lives, and pay particular attention to them at this time.
We also celebrate the life of our savior and brother, even Jesus Christ this time of the year.
[ Indistinct conversations ] -What was that?
[ Indistinct conversations ] -In the Mormon tradition, your blood family is an eternal bond, a unit that exists beyond the mortal world.
And parents have no greater responsibility than to raise children.
-...chopped salad, and we want to make it as quick and easy as possible, so you get yourself a big bowl.
You know what your drawer looks like, you pull it out... -Dang, I got way too many grandkids in here.
-I use a whole head, whole head of iceberg... Wanna see a picture of them?
-How come you guys don't keep any more recent pictures of me around the house?
-No, around the house.
-I don't know.
Ask your mom.
We got one of Anthony and Freddy and Anna.
[ Speaking indistinctly ] -I gotcha.
-Can you see your stubby little toes on that screen sticking up above that thing?
Get your feet down.
-I'll put them down.
She's not filming yet, is she?
-Making a snowman for Angie.
Oh, it's falling apart.
♪♪ -When you leave a place, the place goes on living without you.
This is painfully obvious, yet humans manage to forget it over and over.
♪♪ -How are you gonna tell -- How's he gonna know when to close?
Let's get this over with, guys.
So, when you're ready for us to start, just say "action" so I know to start.
-Are you having breakfast or are you having lunch?
-I'm having breakfast.
-What are you doing, Jess?
You've never been much of a breakfast eater.
[ Indistinct conversations ] ♪♪ -♪ Well, where, oh, where can my baby be?
♪ ♪ The Lord took her away from me ♪ ♪ She's gone to Heaven, so I got to be good ♪ ♪ So I can see my baby when I leave this world ♪ -What are you having, Jesse?
-Probably a sandwich.
-How much longer is this going to be?
-♪ There in the road, straight ahead ♪ -Did you get what you needed?
-♪ A car was stalled, the engine was dead ♪ ♪ I couldn't stop, so I swerved to the right ♪ ♪ Never forget the sound that night ♪ -This event has happened three times now.
Once when you just watched it, once when I staged and filmed it, and then the first time, when four days after Kalla's funeral, we walked into this diner and sat down for lunch.
It was my sister's first time out of the house in two weeks.
-In the silence, this song came on the jukebox.
-♪ Where, oh, where can my baby be?
♪ -Was that the music that was playing in there that day?
That was pretty ironic.
[ Baby babbling ] -No one seemed to notice it but me.
-Makes me want to cry.
-I can't believe that was on there.
-Probably a sandwich.
[ Baby babbling ] -How much longer is this gonna be?
-I've periodically considered the possibility that I dreamt this, but I'm so certain it happened.
My mother is crying because the song is about a lost baby.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Pretty good over there, man.
[ Counting under breath ] 33 loads of lumber this week.
33 semi loads of hardwood lumber shipped out.
Here, I'll show you something else.
I think that's you.
-Jesse and Kalla.
Her little Kalla when she was a little sweet little baby.
And Kalla shortly before she died.
[ Wind rushing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -I want to pause a moment to clarify that this is not an image of Kalla.
For some reason, I just feel like I can't share those right now.
Albeit hazy, it is absolutely an image of my sister Jesse.
♪♪ ♪♪ -You know, when we went over to Cadillac that morning, we were driving over, it was a morning just like this in February.
It was all gray.
Seemed like a little bit of sun was peeking out.
It was snow-covered.
♪♪ -Jesse called me crying and said, "Mom, I'm in the back of the police car and the ambulance is in front of me and we're on our way to the hospital with Kalla.
I found her in her crib this morning, not breathing."
♪♪ And then the numbness set in, and... the funeral.
Jesse was just kind of out of it.
And then the investigation of how she died set in, and then our second nightmare, on top of our first nightmare, began.
[ Wind chimes tinkling ] You know, at first at the hospital, when we asked what happened, they had no reason to believe there was anything but a tragic accident.
So we were kind of shocked when we saw that changing.
And he -- Golnick came to our house and started questioning us.
♪♪ -They game constantly, night and day.
They would try to come at night, to try to get you to be a little sleepy, or they'd hope that you'd have a little drink in you or something like that, you know, and... [ Sniffs ] They'd come 9, 10, 11 o'clock, then they come back at 8:00 in the morning, 9:00 in the morning.
Doctors and police and stuff, they're swearing to it, that you committed this murder, and you're like, "Who am I?"
I'm some ex-convict with a violent past and they're going to believe me over five doctors?
-Here, you can have this one.
You can have it.
-That's too much, JoJo.
-...not to vote for Donald Trump.
-Getting political advice from them is like getting dating tips from ISIS.
-...built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue.
-Two weeks after Kalla's death, my sister married David.
The first time I met him was at the funeral.
They've been living together less than a week when she died.
-[ Children shouting, laughing ] -Because Jesse was believing in David and not leaving him, then they began to suspect perhaps Jesse had something to do with it.
And CPS got involved, Child Protective Services, and, um... they charged her and David with child abuse.
♪♪ -Hello, Jesse.
♪♪ [ Static ] -What do you say when you console a child from a nightmare?
You tell them that it will be okay, that nothing will hurt them, as if they have some kind of special immunity from suffering.
No, no, no.
Daddy told you not to give the puppy that.
-When they discover that they are not immune, they will hold this lie against you for the rest of your life.
[ Baby crying ] -Baby!
[ Crying continues ] Shh, shh.
Yeah, you're okay.
-Do you want to hear about our other kid we lost?
-We've lost two.
-We had a little -- -A grandchild and a daughter.
-We had a little girl named Angela.
She was quite the character.
And we never talked about it before, but... she was quite the little sweetheart.
-[ Crying ] -So, you would equate my transition with Kalla's death?
-Well, you got old memories of a little girl growing up.
-You know, I think it would be the same thing if you had a child and something happened to that child and they no longer were the same person.
You would grieve, you know, who they were for the years that they were someone different.
-[ Laughs ] -You want to go to the beach?
-And once I realized I had to grieve that as a loss, then it helped with my acceptance a lot better in regards to your decision to transition.
[ Wind rushing ] [ Door bangs, creaks ] [ Footsteps crunching ] ♪♪ -Earlier today, my parents told me I was dead and they had to grieve me.
If I hadn't been so completely caught off guard by this comment, I maybe could have responded.
But I was shocked because...
I've just worked so hard to be alive.
[ Breathing heavily ] [ Groans, sniffs ] It's really beautiful out right now.
I don't know if you can see.
It may be too dark.
[ Exhales deeply ] ♪♪ -Zeus' daughter, Aphrodite, could transform herself into a fish to swim from harm.
But long gone are the tales of shape-shifting, sex-changing gods.
In this world, there's no escape from pain, nor body; time, nor death.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Wind chimes tinkling ] -The death certificate was issued, and on the death certificate was homicide and child abuse that occurred monthly, weekly, daily.
And that probably was -- -It said that on the certificate?
-It said monthly, weekly, daily?
And that was probably the point when we knew something was wrong because we had Kalla.
We had Kalla three days prior to her death, and we knew there was no beating or bruising monthly, weekly, and daily, 'cause we would've had to be involved in that.
-What's "Rusty Rivets"?
[ Machinery rumbling ] -Pathologist stated that Kalla died of acute brain bleed, she was slammed against a wall, and that she had bruises all over her body and was beaten and abused for quite a while.
Golnick's been out there before on cases, and they've known each other, and I'll tell you exactly what he said to me and what I believe he probably said to her -- "This guy is a scumbag and he's been in jail before and he killed this baby and we're going to get him."
You know, and then she just kind of let the report slide the way -- lean toward the way he wanted it to go.
[ Groans ] You can edit stuff out, right?
So, I was kept in complete isolation.
Maximum security, one hour a day out of my cell.
And just constant people yelling "Baby killer, baby killer!"
everywhere I went.
-To stay sane in jail, I just prayed a lot and I wrote Jesse letters like nonstop.
-Ooh, an apple!
-[ Gasps ] Where'd it go?
-If Jesse doesn't get to a point where she ever wants to talk to me, I'm not going to, like, try to make... -I think she'll talk to you.
I just don't think that... She's been forced to relive the events of that weekend so many times, that just sets her back mentally.
And that's just not how she copes.
That's not her coping mechanism.
-Mama, can't hear it!
I can't hear it!
Mommy, I can't hear it!
-[ Baby babbling ] -Yeah.
[ Babbling ] -When David was released for the last time, Levi was 11 months old.
-You go to jail!
You're the bad guy.
I'm in jail now.
Can I come out of jail?
[ Levi babbling ] -[ Screams ] ♪♪ [ Vehicles passing ] -Are you going to try to use this stuff and kind of make a film of it?
You haven't decided yet how you're putting it together?
-Well, I'm trying to weave these different strands of stories.
-I hope for the sake of Kalla that you can present it in a way that's not, um... vile.
Oh, vile may not be a good word, but, well, sometimes your work can be very, um... Oh, I don't know what the word for it is, but sometimes your work can be kind of out there.
♪♪ [ Indistinct conversations ] -Come on, get out of here, guys.
-The vileness my mom is referring to is my irreverence around sexuality.
To me, sex is a cosmic thing, inherently linked to death because both are conduits to other worlds.
-Honey, I got an obstacle course here.
-Both are about endings, but also beginnings.
-Pick up them carrots for me, Levi.
-You don't get to the pregnancy and giving-of-life part without the sex part.
-What do you got?
-No one knows that more intimately than mothers.
-Your mother is the first awesome miracle that will haunt you your whole life.
[ Static ] ♪♪ ♪ When Heaven made ya, darlin' ♪ ♪ They made a dream come true ♪ ♪ And I'll always thank Heaven ♪ ♪ For sending me you ♪ ♪ An angel sweet and perfect ♪ ♪ In everything you do ♪ ♪ And my darlin' ♪ -Only getting into the mid-20s today, a little cooler.
Northwest winds gusting to 25.
Snow showers will diminish after dark.
In fact, after dark, pretty quiet tonight.
Late tonight, a little snow mainly north, as our next system arrives.
Winds turning out of the south.
Temperatures tonight around 20, and then tomorrow, occasional snow showers, highs in the mid... -It's us.
We're in bed.
Say, "Good morning, America."
Can you say, "Good morning, America"?
[ Muffled ] Good morning, America.
-[ Chuckles ] -Up at 7:30.
All three diapers changed as soon as I wake up.
Then breakfast at eight o'clock for all three, including for the three babies and the bigger kids.
Then when breakfast is done, clean up breakfast, cartoon time, and then it's going to be snack time.
And after snack time is all done, then it's going to be nap time, and 12:00 to 3:00 is what I call quiet time.
After that, then it's just chaos, but my day's almost over.
-Two months after Kalla's death, my sister was pregnant with Levi.
The cycle repeats itself three times.
One, two... -Yeah, I'm talking to you.
-He's got little tiny fingers.
-Three children for three years gone.
-♪ Happy birthday to you ♪ ♪ Happy birthday, dear Levi ♪ ♪ Happy birthday to you ♪ -Do you think that Jesse's repetitive breeding is a way to fill that hole?
-Yeah, I think that she really -- um, what's the word I'm thinking about?
-- yearns to hold that baby in her arms.
And once those babies start to get bigger, they don't give her that same feeling.
[ Hymns playing softly ] -I have another question for my mom, but I can't quite figure out how to ask it.
So I ask around it.
-♪ That for me, a sinner ♪ ♪ He suffered, he bled and died ♪ -It was only shortly after Kalla had passed away, and there were some new missionaries that came out from Idaho and we were telling them our story.
And one day they said, "You know, we have a church member that is a pathologist.
He might be able to give you a second opinion of the autopsy."
-We met with Dr. Ormsby after church on Sunday, and he took the autopsy report, and it was old blood that was on the slides.
Just said that baby was not abused -- that baby died of a chronic brain bleed.
And a chronic brain bleed is one that's been going on for probably weeks or months.
♪♪ -My mom believes the doctor was a messenger, a testament to the truth of the Mormon faith.
-She also believes that there are many gods and goddesses in the cosmos.
But in the celestial kingdom, 1,000 years is equivalent to a single day, and that after that, the physical body will be reunited with the spirit body.
♪♪ -You're watching a video from my baptism when I was 8 years old.
I wouldn't trouble you with this memory, but I have to tell you that when I came out of the water that day, everything felt different.
Because when you have a revelation, you acknowledge a need, a desire for something outside and beyond yourself.
Angela just got baptized with Marguerite.
-You start assessing the borders between belief and truth... ...what you know and what you trust.
♪♪ -An I-Team investigation uncovers that child abuse convictions of dozens of people in Michigan are now being called into question.
-And the tragic death of a 3-year-old girl here in West Michigan has opened up some new conversations about whether innocent people are sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Tonight, I-Team's Ryan Duffy shares his findings in a special report.
♪♪ -Research is casting doubt on... -They knew that if David and Jesse were found not guilty of child abuse, what would that do to their criminal case?
So they ultimately ended up dropping the criminal case.
♪♪ -Does Jesse ever talk about anything that happened?
-No, Jesse don't talk about Kalla at all.
[ Wind rushing ] [ Footsteps crunching ] -At first, I wanted to make a film about injustice.
And here we are.
You know hardly anything about the investigation, and you know the tip of the iceberg about a random family in nowhere, Michigan.
-Get some Popsicles.
The kids love Popsicles.
This is what they like, right here.
-I would, however, like to take this moment to tell you that the lead detective on this case is now a dog catcher somewhere in Florida.
And the corrupt Child Protective Service worker got fired after leaving a bar drunk to pick up a 4-year-old child.
-It was all bits and pieces, really.
Definitely not something I like to try to remember and hear talk about.
-Oh, I'm going to take my favorite duck home.
-What's your favorite duck?
-Look at it.
Look at the wood patterns on the wood -- block of wood it was carved out of.
Can see parts of the red in the eye.
[ Machinery hissing ] [ Machinery rumbling ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -Memory must be created against an abundance of information... -[ Laughs ] -...but also against an absence.
It has to be constructed.
You assemble the fractures, arrange the incidences to build a story.
♪♪ -With this surge of arctic air coming across the central plains, we'll see our temperatures actually tumble on Saturday... -Hi!
-[ Baby babbles ] ♪♪ -The moment something terrible ends is the moment you begin to ingest how terrible it really was.
[ Indistinct conversations ] [ "Law & Order" tones ] -Children dying.
It's got to be emotionally draining.
-There was an ever-present sense of loss.
She's constructed an emotional shield to protect her unconscious from turmoil.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Footsteps ] [ Baby babbling ] [ Banging on door ] ♪♪ [ Siren wails ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I know she's... You know, the depression is so deep that she doesn't even... she can't make good, safe decisions for those babies.
The last six weeks...
The last six weeks, she's been behaving like she used to behave when she was on drugs.
[ Cartoons playing on TV faintly ] [ News broadcast playing on TV faintly ] -What happened yesterday was really just a manifestation of what has been happening since Kalla died.
You put it away, but it doesn't go away.
You know, I think the fact that she wouldn't reach out to you when you were right there just goes to show you how she copes.
She, uh... -She came in and she did that laughing thing -- Mm-hmm.
-...that she does, and...
I didn't -- I didn't -- you know, I don't know.
I didn't think to... -You don't.
-What to say or do.
-Or you don't think that she's in distress because she -- that's how she laughs it off.
I think the revisiting of this story with you, even to the simple little thing that probably didn't hit us so hard was going to Steven's, because that was something we had done together and -- -Did you remember that we had done that?
-Mm-hmm, I remembered that we had done that.
I remember the surrealness of that.
And I suspect either she didn't really remember it consciously, that there was some of that circular grieving that was starting to surface in her.
♪♪ ♪♪ -My sister is the most impenetrable person I know.
I've been trying to understand her since her first overdose over 10 years ago.
But I wasn't always trying.
♪♪ -Jesse... You know, looking back, she is so resilient and such a survivor.
'Cause, you know, she always felt like she was not as smart or as talented as you.
And then as we got older, you know, uh... life became such a struggle for you, and some of your demands became so overwhelming for us, and then Jesse started having problems, but she didn't want to tell us, because she felt like we had our hands full with you.
[ Ultrasound oscillating ] And then when she got pregnant for Kalla, she came and moved in with us and gave up all the drugs and focused her life on Kalla.
So Kalla was a blessing in that sense.
♪♪ -Most humans emerge into the world with a name, a family, a neighborhood.
Your insides are filled with memories of togetherness and aloneness mixed with limitless desires, sensations of unspeakable beauty, awe, mystery.
But children of a certain age believe that faith is moral, that bad things happen because you were bad.
♪♪ -Well, you hung around with a pretty strong group of friends, and none of them became addicts, and you did.
That makes you wonder, why were you the one of all of those that became an addict?
-Rich kids who, like, grow up in mansions will get addicted to drugs.
Anybody can get addicted to drugs, Mom.
What do you think, Madsen?
-I sort of checked out over the last couple of minutes.
-[ Scoffs ] She was saying it didn't make sense.
-I just had a thought that was like, "I need to check out from this conversation, it's too intense."
-Everything is too intense for you.
Can't you just, like, slow your brain down?
Like, don't think so hard.
♪♪ -I screwed up at the end.
I said the wrong part.
-It's okay, you ran out of... -You were an angry teenager.
One time, do you know what you said to me?
You said to me, "I'm going to push you out that window and take pictures of your decapitated body."
Yeah, you were a fruitcake.
[ Baby shouting ] You had problems going on, probably because you were a man in a woman's body and you were taking it out on me.
Show us them muscles in your arms.
-You were abusive.
You were emotionally and physically abusive.
And you're probably why I had a drug problem when I grew up.
-There's no other times you ever felt, like, taken care of by me?
-[ Sucks teeth ] Mnh-mnh.
No, no other times I can remember.
-Big feelings scare me.
This is well documented by my trail of failed relationships with emotionally expressive people who feel that I have what may be called an empathy problem.
I don't know if this is something I developed or just always had.
Tell me... Is stoicism only for men?
[ Static, radio tuning ] ♪♪ -♪ When I was a little boy, taken from my mama ♪ ♪ Down the dusty road I'd never see again ♪ ♪ Gamble all my money, drink all my money ♪ ♪ Give you all my money, just tell me what to do ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ And oh, oh, I sing these blues ♪ [ Indistinct conversations ] ♪♪ -Some things are so ingrained in you that it's hard to get rid of them.
You're kind of a product of your environment, but you can only blame that to a certain extent, and once you're an adult, you have to start making your own decisions and choices, so... Get back.
You can't go through life saying "My daddy spanked me or was an alcoholic, so I'mma be a piece of crap the rest of my life."
That's not really part of growing up and having accountability.
♪♪ -In your world, there is a tension between what it means to be a good man and what it means to be a real man.
♪♪ You are told that fracturing is unbecoming.
But a picture of wholeness is by far more satisfying.
♪♪ [ Camera shutter clicks ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -You a snotface?
Are you a snotface?
-I can see him sitting in the chair.
-Is he awake?
-He's passed out.
-I can tell by one look at him 'cause he looks different.
You know what I mean?
You know when you know somebody well enough, you know, when they're like... -Yeah, you know when they're [bleep] up.
-Yeah, 'cause I could see him through the window, and he was just like this on the chair.
-You can't be around it.
You're not strong enough yet.
[ Children crying in distance ] I'mma go, "I'm done going around seeing [bleep]," you know?
Like, obviously, I can't be the -- the strength of the relationship.
-You're not the rock right now.
-You're not the rock right now.
-And that's okay.
People take turns being rocks.
-But, like... -[ Sighs ] He needs to go to re-- He'll never -- [ Sighs ] He needs to go to rehab.
And he would hate that, absolutely hate that, 'cause his dad was always in rehab when he was growing up.
What day are you leaving?
-Madsen, you told me you were going to stay the extra day!
Today is the extra day.
-No, because my psychiatrist appointment is tomorrow at 2:00.
-The extra day that I was staying was for David's arraignment this morning.
[bleep] Okay, well, how about Friday?
[ Insects chirping ] [ Rock music playing on radio ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Subway train approaching ] [ Rock music playing, indistinct conversations ] ♪♪ Madsen, you á*á*á*á*.
We just had a brilliant idea.
♪♪ [ Rock music playing over computer speakers ] ♪♪ -My mom asked the church elders about me.
They tell her that if God truly intended for me to be a man, then I'd be given the correct genitals in the afterlife.
♪♪ I'm clearly not the only one who puts sex and death in the same sentence.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Static ] [ Paper rustling ] My dad believes that it's our human duty to reproduce.
-He had a revelation.
He had a visit.
-Because before Christ can return, all souls must populate a body.
It's our human job to offer those souls a body to occupy.
[ Baby babbling ] [ Baby crying ] In this line of thought, a body that does not reproduce is inherently less valuable.
[ Static ] -Are you less valuable?
-Where -- How do babies -- How does the baby come out of my belly?
-And do you want it to be a baby boy or baby girl?
-I'm not gonna be a baby!
-No, the babe in my belly, -[ Baby crying ] You want it to be a baby boy or baby girl?
[ Babies babbling ] -Levi.
[ Levi shouts ] -You didn't say anything about it.
[ Levi shouting ] -Are you happy about it?
-You guys are all party poopers.
[ Levi shouting ] -Uncle Madsen!
You stop messing with my clock, mister!
♪♪ ♪♪ -Ancients thought that time was cyclical, related to the rotation of the celestial bodies, the movement of stars and planets.
It's only since the Christian redefinition of time that you think about time as irreversible with a beginning -- genesis -- and end -- apocalypse.
-[ Vocalizing ] ♪♪ -Would you like to tell them now?
-I know this is nonlinear, but I have another piece of an earlier story to tell you.
A month before Kalla's death, she fell down the stairs.
She suffered a slow brain bleed that was undetected by the immediate ER visit and CT scan.
To add pain to pain, she had tripped on her blanket.
She was in the process of seeking comfort.
David was watching her.
♪♪ -So, Sherry called me about, I don't know, seven o'clock in the morning, 'cause we start at 6:00, and she says, "Fred, I got a problem."
I said, "What?'
Said, "David's drunk at work here."
And I said, "Oh, really?"
Says, "Would you come and take him in for his test?
'Cause I think it's gonna be awkward if I tell him.
I didn't want him to..." You know, I think they were leery about him getting aggressive or something, but I said, "Alright, I'll be there."
So I zipped into work there and... definitely drunk.
Got a few addictions.
So in my mind, been praying every night for that.
-Go to them.
What are you doing?
-[ Baby cries ] -I see you got your tooth fixed.
-But I prefer to drink out of a straw.
-Her teeth were replaced this week.
She says she fell in the shower.
Everyone believes her.
-Only happens to me, this kind of stuff.
-What do you think it is about you that attracts this kind of fun stuff?
-I guess God thinks I can handle it, but apparently he's wrong.
You know how they say, you know, you don't get what you can't handle?
You know what I mean?
[ Baby babbling ] -What kind of jet is that?
Papa probably knows.
Papa used to be in the Air Force and he would fly a plane like this.
-[ Mimics explosion ] -So, he brought the picture of Kalla out a couple weeks ago and he said to me, "Grandma, who's this?"
And I said, "That's Kalla."
And he said, "Who's Kalla?"
And I said, "Kalla was your older sister."
And he said, "Well, where is she?"
I said, "Well, Kalla died."
And he said, "Well, where did she go?"
I said, "Well, when you die, you go to Heaven."
And he said, "Well, how did she die?"
And I said she fell and hit her head.
And he said, "Where was my mom?"
And I said, "Well, your mama wasn't there when she fell."
But I didn't bother to say that your daddy was home with her, but I said, "Your mama wasn't there when she fell."
And then he was like, "Oh," and then he never asked any more questions.
Didn't say, "Where was Daddy?
Where was Papa?"
He said, "Where was Mama?"
'cause I guess he's convinced Mama would have stopped it from happening if Mama would've been there.
-In early life, the veil between worlds is lowered.
But when children develop memory and imagination, they also begin to understand time.
There are things that were and things that are... and things that will be.
-You know, there's the grief of losing... ...the grief of losing all those rites of passage that you experience with a child.
And those are all taken from you because that's changed.
It's a hard thing to adapt to.
[ All singing ] -Sometimes it's unclear if Mom is talking about you or about me.
-She's talking about you.
You, who is very much alive.
-But also you.
♪♪ -Some endings are lost in a sea of beginnings.
Look at how awake you are.
[ Smooching ] Look how awake you are, little guy.
-Mom, can I hold him?
-Sure, come on up.
-Wrap him up first so he stays nice and warm.
Lean against the couch.
Are you comfy?
-Oh, I don't -- I don't honestly want to hold him.
-I'll stay right by you.
You just want to check him out?
He gets nervous.
[ Child speaking indistinctly ] Lookit!
Uncle Madsen, look over there.
[ Speaking indistinctly ] -I feel a deep sense of sorrow for this man.
For the things that have happened, but also because he was never told that being a good man is the same thing as being a good person.
[ Static ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -♪ Been wastin' my time talkin' to you ♪ ♪ Just don't do me no good ♪ ♪ You can turn my way or you can walk away ♪ ♪ Or you can love me like you should ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Great temperatures.
The heat continues on.
-Yeah, you're right.
A nice weekend coming up.
At least Saturday, as you mentioned.
Maybe a little rain later Sunday, and we'll talk more about that coming up in a few minutes, but another nice day... [ Marching band plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -Humans create stories to explain things, to understand the world they occupy.
You already know that.
But when you lie to yourself long enough, you begin to believe a particular version of a story.
♪♪ -Hang on.
-Are you ready?
-[ Sighs ] The camera.
-First, tell me what really happened to your teeth.
-My teeth got kicked in by my husband.
And I'm all fixed.
But they're chipping off again.
Um, but... -Why did he do that?
-He was drunk.
Um... And I instantly felt the flood and I went... [ Humming ] I kind of did one of these to walk away from Levi, but it was -- it was everywhere.
He was like, "Mom, you're bleeding.
I was like, "I'm okay!"
I just did the best I could.
-Before, I constantly had black eyes and bloody lips.
All the time.
And I would say -- And Mom thought that I was like... She told me a couple of days ago -- I got really upset with her like a week ago because she said -- she sent me this long text saying about how I have these children to take care of and I'm obviously in a state of hypomanic or... What's that word?
She thinks, like, if I put on makeup or like, lose baby weight, that I'm, like, acting manic-y.
Like, but really, I'm just not pregnant.
I've been pregnant for four years.
Yeah, I'm right here.
-Don't just leave them like that, okay?
-You know, you got a whole room.
-Can we all go on our blankie hunt together?
Oh, Mama found it first.
-The cycles of pregnancies and births and depressions have historically ended in breakdowns or relapses.
And I've spent the last five years trying to accept my powerlessness to change this.
-Grandpa, guess -- -Lookit!
-I got a little orangutan I caught.
-Grandpa, here comes Daddy!
-We all got to keep an eye on this baby.
Don't push him back.
-What do you got?
Oh, show me the flower.
You know girls don't have to wear lipstick, don't you?
-Some girls don't wear any lipstick, and they're beautiful.
[ Babbling ] [ Laughs ] -♪ So long to mysterious ♪ ♪ So long to mysterious ♪ [ Tattoo machine buzzing ] ♪ A bottle and some confidence ♪ ♪ Filthy hands and a compliment ♪ ♪ Now we're fighting in my bed ♪ -Jeremy, be gentle.
It's my first time.
-♪ Give a hand for the swapped spit ♪ ♪ Steal a kiss for the damages ♪ ♪ Now I'm following my own lead ♪ ♪ No regard for the casualties ♪ -Shouldn't it hurt more the first time?
Isn't that how it works?
-Were you drunk the first time?
[ Tattoo machine buzzing ] -Alright.
Go check that out.
-Let me see.
-This suntan is really burning.
-Can we put that away for a little bit?
-It's been going on since I saw you.
-Yeah, it's always mem-- He's uncomfortable without it, obviously.
[ Tattoo machine buzzing ] -I'm gonna smoke.
-How is a body like a back road?
-All the bumps and curves.
-Yeah, I know I'm pretty good at being a cameraman, huh?
[ Speaking indistinctly ] [ Tattoo machine buzzing ] ♪♪ -Do you feel responsible for a lot of the things that have happened to Jesse?
I feel real sad about that.
-I feel responsible, too, because I was just such a cruel sibling.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Most of the time, I don't know what to say.
"I'm sorry" only works if the person can hear it or wants to hear it.
[ Neck cracking ] The same goes for "I love you."
-I remember when I drove my wagon down the road.
I don't know how far down the road I was, but I felt like I was miles away.
Then I stopped, and all of a sudden, I couldn't see the house.
I was, like, completely lost.
So I, like, just stopped and stood there.
And then I saw Mom come out to the road and yell, "Jesse!"
Everybody thought I was dead or in the lake.
-We could do that.
That'd be funny.
-I remember that like it was yesterday.
-We re-create this event together.
We try to imagine ourselves as small bodies.
It's in moments like this, where I coax her to do something utterly ridiculous with me, that I'm able to see her love.
Who else would put up with this?
♪♪ ♪♪ -Look how he went for the sun.
He found an opening and started leaning over in a different direction.
[ Clears throat ] Oh, a lot of years to do that.
Oh, ferns are growing right up between the keys.
[ Note plays faintly ] Well, it can't play anymore.
[ Thudding ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Machinery rumbling ] There's going to be a brand-new trucking company coming in that's going to help handle all the freight coming from the new Arauco plant.
The whole town is going to change.
♪♪ -It's construction season.
The roads are widening, and I'm trying to remember why exactly I drug us through this.
♪♪ -Because you believed that the choices you've made render you unlovable, that the distance you enforced would protect you from suffering.
-That's just not true anymore.
-Then what questions have you left?
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Rumbling, banging ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -♪ Take us to the river ♪ ♪ Teach us to swim upstream ♪ ♪ Is there life in the flood, get used to fightin' ♪ ♪ 'Cause, yeah, those currents can be real mean ♪ [ Static ] ♪♪ -I think most humans spend a good chunk of their lives trying to put distance between themselves and where they came from.
Most literally, our mothers.
One being separating to two -- it's absolutely myth-worthy.
I have to ask you something really challenging for me.
-There's just, like, one thing that sort of always is kind of a replay in my brain that I have to ask you about, then I'm hoping I can exorcise it.
Um... which is that when I told you that I wanted to start taking hormones, you had a sort of emotional response and told me that me being trans was God punishing you for having had me.
Um... And I just want to ask you if you still feel that way.
-I don't remember telling you that.
I don't remember saying that.
That was probably a grief response.
And I love the person you are.
And I'm sorry I said that.
-And hopefully you can forgive me.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Mom gave a talk one time in church.
Talked about Jesse, and she talked about you, the soul.
You know, we all have things we have to adapt to.
And that was the -- the crux of her talk was you have to -- you love them the way they are.
You know, that's the way it is.
And if somebody doesn't like it that my daughter's transgender or the church doesn't agree with it, I've got a big problem with that.
So she's very... And everybody liked it, too.
-Did she say that?
So, you mess with Mother Goose, man, you're going to get hurt, you know?
♪♪ -♪ So rock me, mama, like a wagon wheel ♪ ♪ Rock me, mama, any way you feel ♪ ♪ Hey, mama, rock me ♪ ♪ Rock me, mama, like the wind and the rain ♪ ♪ Rock me, mama, like a southbound train ♪ ♪ Hey, mama, rock me ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Children shouting, coughing ] -Will you look at the sunset?
Orange and red.
Fred, come and catch this gorgeous sunset!
-I learned a secret.
When you speak the pain's name, it dissipates.
When the pain is great, you have to speak it over and over and over again.
I want to go back into time and tell this secret to all our former selves.
-Tell it to all your future selves instead.
[ Swing creaking ] -It's a squeaky chain.
-I don't ask many questions anymore.
I just stay and watch small hands become larger hands... -Hold my hand.
-...single-syllable words become multi... -Well, yeah, come on!
-...and notice my capacity for love becoming greater than I ever imagined possible.
♪♪ [ Static ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Well, here we are, leaving town yet again.
First day of sunshine, and I'm on my way out.
♪♪ -♪ Scouring your conscience ♪ ♪ Raking through your memories ♪ ♪♪ ♪ But that was the river ♪ ♪ This is the sea, yeah ♪ ♪♪ -Kalla.
You were born between a trine of powerful feminine energies.
Your mother's, most obviously, my mother's, and mine.
You were mid-passage from one world to the next.
The pain was nearly unbearable.
And then I cut your umbilical cord, severing one being into two.
It was more rubbery than I could have ever imagined.
But in retrospect, of course it'd be that strong.
Your mother screamed, "Is she okay?"
I said, "Yes, baby.
-♪ But that was the river ♪ ♪ This is the sea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Because that was the river ♪ ♪ And this is the sea ♪ ♪ That was the river ♪ ♪ This is the sea ♪ ♪ That was the river ♪ ♪ This is the sea ♪ ♪ That was the river, river, river ♪ ♪ River, river, river, river ♪ ♪ And this is the sea ♪ [ Baby crying ] ♪♪ -She's beautiful!
-[ Laughs ] -Oh, oh!
You did such a good job!
[ Baby fusses ] -She's beautiful.
-Is she okay?
-She's perfect, baby.
♪♪ -♪ Sea, yeah ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Behold the sea ♪ -♪ Wish I could write songs about anything ♪ ♪ Other than death ♪ ♪♪ ♪ But I can't go to bed without drawing the red ♪ [ Applause ] ♪ Shaving off breaths ♪ ♪ Each one so heavy ♪ ♪ Each one so cumbersome ♪ ♪ Each one a lead weight ♪ ♪ Hanging between my lungs ♪ ♪ Spilling my guts ♪ ♪ Sweat on a microphone ♪ ♪ Breaking my voice ♪ ♪ Whenever I'm alone with you, can't talk ♪ ♪ A sprinter learning to wait ♪ ♪ A marathon runner, my ankles are sprained ♪ -"North by Current" is a film about figuring out how to coexist with people that don't share your same values in the world, figuring out how to be available for each other and practice empathy.
It's a film that encourages that, both as a maker and as a viewer, trying to just generate a more expansive pool of openness to the people in your life.
I think, when you're coming into yourself, especially as a young trans person, there's a lot of kind of rhetoric around the idea of, like, shedding the skin and letting go of, you know, the experiences that have traumatized you throughout your life, and for some people, that means family.
Family is both a source of grief and a source of joy.
It's really easy sometimes to say, "Oh, these people have hurt me, so I'm going to move on with my life without them."
It's a lot harder to say, "These people have hurt me.
How can I repair or integrate or at least have both experiences -- both/and?"
It's some cognitive dissonance, you know, to, like, understand that my parents love me and they love their Mormon religion.
There is room for both truths to be in opposition.
I just think about young trans people, and I think about myself, and, like, the need to, like, disconnect to, like, reinstate my own identity, my own self-importance, my own sense of being.
So much of that sense of being comes from disidentification with the "before."
And I think that process of reintegration is incredibly healing.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪