Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Becoming Julia 2003

Directed by Ruth Cullen

52 minutes Beta-SP

Director, Producer, Screenplay, Photography

Additional photography

Kathryn Mills


Reva Childs


Andree Greenwell


Sydney 2003


Paul works as a bus driver. He is single, straight and 37 and he’s a handy man to have around when your car breaks down. All of which will make it surprising to most that Paul wants nothing more than to undergo a gender transition and to live as Julia, a jolly middle-aged country gal – who likes to race cars. Director Ruth Cullen films him in the process of becoming her. Cullen set out with an explicitly feminist question on her mind – what is it about a male-to-female transgendered person that is so irrepressibly female? It’s a question that lingers throughout this engaging, prejudice-shattering encounter. Following her heart in more than matters of gender, Julia returns to her rural roots to find out just how honest, honest country folk are prepared to be. The most disarming accomplishment of Becoming Julia is that though we might emerge inspired by Julia’s courage, her desire for integrity – to look like she feels – seems like a perfectly ordinary form of sanity. — BG 

"‘I thought I’d have to sew and paint porcelain dolls. The fact is that I’m about to fully restore a V8 Commodore – I still go and work for a friend on a farm each January driving a tractor.’ Her decision to answer Cullen’s call for a documentary subject was one made after weeks of procrastination and self-analysis. The main reason she did, she said, was to have a document of what she had gone through – which could hopefully explain her decision to others. ‘I couldn’t go and live in another city, in Perth or Darwin or Adelaide or somewhere, and be a person who has no past. A lot of transsexuals obliterate their past, they destroy photos, they don’t keep their friends, and start a whole new life. I thought, I don’t want to be secret, I’m going to be public.’ The film has been included in the Sydney Film Festival and will be screened in Julia’s hometown of Bathurst. That screening, she hoped, would get back some of what she had lost since coming out as a transsexual. ‘It’s like I’ll be able to sit down with everyone who watches it, and sit down and have a heart-to-heart and tell them why I’ve done what I’ve done. I believe that the majority of people who see it are going to say, ‘This is the same stupid bastard we’ve known all our lives – come and have a beer with us.’" — Julia, interviewed for