Black and White

A film by Kirsty MacDonald

New Zealand | 2006 | 17 minutes | Color | DVD | English | Order No. 07919


BLACK AND WHITE shines a sensitive light on a subject that is too often either shunned or sensationalized: the experiences of intersex people (sometimes called hermaphrodites). This beautiful and stylish film artfully explores the potent creative collaboration between Mani Bruce Mitchell and the acclaimed photographer Rebecca Swan. Portrayed through this lens, Mitchell’s story introduces viewers to notions of fluid gender identity, challenging the rigid categories of “male” and “female.”

At birth Mitchell was assigned the gender “male” but when investigative surgery subsequently revealed that “he” had ovaries, “Bruce” was renamed “Ruth” and reassigned the gender “female.” BLACK AND WHITE picks up on Mitchell’s story in 2005, weaving together her unflinching yet unexpectedly humorous insights, along with Swan’s descriptions of their creative collaboration on a book about gender identity. Documenting the way Mitchell boldly expresses her own intersex identity through the medium of art, the film challenges the viewer to see Mitchell for who s/he is. Combining intimate, present-day interviews with rich archival slides, photographs and film footage, as well as playful fragments of Super-8 stop-motion animation, BLACK AND WHITE is a stunning tribute to Mitchell’s courage and fierce commitment to change.


“BLACK AND WHITE is a rare and wonderful look into the life of an intersex person, bringing a human face to an issue most people never even think about.”

Mo Ratel The Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

“Heartfelt and candid…If you seize one voice to articulate the perils and possibilities of the in-between, it ought to be Mitchell’s testimony.”

Amy Villarejo Dir., Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Cornell Univ.

“An assured and compelling work…manages to combine real insight into a difficult life while retaining a sense of optimism, humor and community.”

Annie Goldson PhD (Trustee DOCNZ Festival)

“Recommended…Mitchell’s views and theorizing present a truly interesting, evocative, and empirical view on society’s learned binary view [of gender] and how we might reconsider it.”

Educational Media Reviews Online

“Three Stars. Recommended.”

Video Librarian


  • DOCNZ - Int’l Doc F F, New Zealand, Best Short Doc
  • Austin Gay & Lesbian Int’l F F, Best Short Film
  • Outtakes Int'l Gay and Lesbian FF
  • San Diego Women FF
  • Short Fuse Programme, MIC, New Zealand
  • Melbourne Queer FF
  • Pink Apple Lesbian and Gay FF, Zurich
  • Turin and Bologne Int'l Lesbian and Gay FF
  • Boston Gay and Lesbian FF
  • “Damn These Heels” Lesbian and Gay FF, Salt Lake City
  • Int'l Festival on Gender and Sexuality, Delhi
  • Seattle Gay and Lesbian FF
  • Athens Int'l Gay and Lesbian FF
  • TLV FEST, Tel Aviv Int'l LGBT FF
  • Reelout FF, Ontario, Canada
  • Int'l Lesbian & Gay FF, Hamburg
  • The Int'l Women's FF, Dortmund, Cologne
  • Monterrey Int'l FF, Official selection, International premiere
  • Planet Gender FF, Maastricht, The Netherlands, World Premiere


Kirsty MacDonald

Kirsty MacDonald is an independent filmmaker based in Auckland, New Zealand; MacDonald has directed several short award-winning digital documentaries including: Black and White (2006) exploring the potent collaboration between intersex activist Mani Bruce Mitchell and photographer Rebecca Swan; Good For a Girl (2005), a portrait of the New Zealand Women’s Boxing Champion, and I Can Read You Like a Book (2003), an examination of the way in which one woman "performs" her gender identity. Her short film Black and White has shown at over 40 international festivals since 2006, four times in competition, winning both "Best Short NZ Documentary" and "Best Emerging Director" in the 2006 Documentary New Zealand International Film Festival, and also "Best Short Film" at the 2006 Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (USA). Both Good For a Girl and I Can Read You Like a Book were awarded Best Director and Best Documentary in the 2004 and 2005 AUSA/AUT 15 Minutes of Fame Competition. She has written two feature films and several short dramas as well as working on numerous short dramas during her Masters degree. In 2007, after completing a Masters in Creative and Performing Arts (Directing Documentary/ Scriptwriting) at the University of Auckland MacDonald worked as Vincent Ward’s assistant on the feature documentary-drama Rain of the Children. MacDonald has a background in music and performance, as a member of a Wellington-based travelling theatre company, and as a solo and group performer of original acoustic music in the United States and New Zealand for fifteen years. She has performed in and produced five albums, as well as cocreating several animated shorts for New Zealand’s International Puppet Festival.

In 2008 MacDonald directed three episodes of Kete Aronui (a contemporary art series) for Maori Television and prior to this spent three months in France where she was Niki Caro’s assistant on the feature film "The Vintner's Luck", thanks to a mentorship grant from Women in Film and Television (NZ). While there she also directed and shot the making of documentary for the film, which she later edited. In 2009 she completed a feature-length documentary and 8 short films exploring alternative gender identity and creativity called "Assume Nothing." Accompanying the photographs of acclaimed New Zealand photographer Rebecca Swan, these films formed part of the widely attended Assume Nothing Exhibition, touring 5 major New Zealand art galleries and museums for 18 months until 2010. "Assume Nothing" the feature film has been accepted into numerous international film festivals including Vancouver, DOK Leipzig, Frameline, Rhode Island, Planete Doc Review Warsaw, and the 24th BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. The film was a finalist in the 2009 Qantas Film and Television Awards (Best Arts/Festival/Feature Documentary), and also received a Special Mention In Competition in the Documentary New Zealand International Film Festival (2009). (7/12

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