Written, Produced & Directed – Jed Bell
Produced & Edited – Andy Bydalek
Filmed in January 2020.
The Number 12 is the graduate thesis project of filmmaker Jed Bell, who is a frequent collaborator with Andy. It was shot on the soundstages of SF State University. The film explores themes of gender identity within the trans-spectrum experience: a scary future in which all trans people are pressured to take hormones and have surgery—transitioning entirely in one day—and to choose one of only a few “model” bodies for their new selves.
It raises a central question: must each of us choose to present ourselves as traditionally "male" or "female" in order to belong?
The Number 12 takes its inspiration not only from the original 1960s Twilight Zone series in general, but from one episode in particular: “The Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”
In this episode, we find a young woman restlessly sitting with her options in a future world where everyone, on turning 18, chooses to undergo The Transformation: an operation which gives an entirely new body to the patient, conferring not only lasting beauty but much longer life.
As an artist and a trans man, I have my share of “chronically unique” outsider syndrome. In my more paranoid moments, I sometimes feel that all my trans friends have deserted their more complicated, pre-transition identities and left me here, alone, struggling with the gender binary, patriarchy, and all the complexities of living a visibly trans life.
I wanted to untangle some of the knots of my own obsessions: how can friendship and belonging curdle into menace, betrayal, abandonment? How do we act ethically in a world organized by inequality? How do our decisions as trans people affect our selves and each other? These questions coalesced into a film about a creeped-out, always-ambivalent trans guy who stumbles on a conspiracy to force us all into the ultimate cheerful capitulation.
– Jed Bell
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