‘Trapped’ chronicles journey of transgender Renton woman

Renton filmmaker Long Tran's documentary about his former classmate at Renton High School to be shown as part of SIFF this year.


The hit of the drumstick against a drum head booms loudly and the screen flashes a bright pink with the name “Bruce” running across it.


The second bang lands as strongly as the first, but this time, the screen is an electric blue and the name “Brooklyn” appears.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Suddenly the beat picks up speed and breaks into a controlled frenzy of double-stroke rolls. The screen switches between “Bruce” and “Brooklyn,” syncing perfectly to the rapidly progressing beat.

The sequence ends with the sound of a jail cell closing and a title card reading, “Trapped.”

This is the opening sequence to Long Tran’s award-winning movie titled Trapped,” a documentary about his peer, Brooklyn Buenaventura’s (previously Bruce) journey of self-acceptance.

Buenaventura first gained popularity when she was selected as the first openly-transgender prom queen at Renton High School last year. Her transition not only created a buzz at school, but caught national attention.

“Brooklyn was a friend since freshman year, but I’ve known of her since middle school,” said Tran who graduated with Buenaventrua from RHS last year. “She did cheerleading in school and everyone thought she was just a gay guy. But it was more than that by senior year. She transitioned to a woman.”

Tran is not a new face to the Renton film scene. He had won the Award of Excellence at the 2015 Northwest High School Film Festival for his film Continuity and has a couple of Curvee awards under his belt.

When his film teacher recommended Tran make a documentary about Buenaventura for class, he was intrigued and took on the challenge. Within a span of the week, he was able to shoot and put together the almost five-minute movie that captures Buenaventura’s candid journey of transitioning and self-acceptance.

“My teacher —she’s a very harsh critic she really liked it,” said Tran. “A lot of teachers were interested in my work. Soon the whole school found out about it. What really surprised me is that Brooklyn didn’t just see it as another project to show off herself. When I showed it in class, she was getting pretty emotional and touched by it. It wasn’t a big screening or anything, but seeing her appreciate my work, I thought at that moment that I made something meaningful for the first time.”

Tran said he was caught off guard by the movie’s popularity, not only at school but also online.

“I did that all of that in a week and I thought it was the crappiest thing I’ve ever made,” said Tran. “A month later, 4,000 had seen it [on YouTube]. Now, 20,000 people have seen it. That was a huge surprise for me because that was the least amount of work I’ve ever put into a project.”

The film part of the FutureWave Shorts category at Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) this year. It has also been picked up by Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival, All American High School Film Festival, Tacoma Film Festival and Enumclaw Music & Arts Film Fest, and is the winner of the Bridgewater College Film and Music Festival.

“I didn’t think [the film] would get that much coverage,” said Buenaventura. “I didn’t know that the questions he asked me were making people realize that they were alone. The documentary was very, very powerful.”

Long, who is currently pursuing a communications degree at University of Washington, says that this movie has inspired him to make more socially-conscious documentaries.

“I really want to do a documentary on social issues like diversity in film or something about transgender issues,” he said. “Not just cause they work and they get the views in film festivals but because they generally fascinate me and it’s an important story to tell. It’s completely relevant today.”