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Kimberly Reed’s first film was autobiographical. ‘Dark Money’ follows the ripple effect of Citizens United. Photo by Claire Jones

While Marc’s medical issues remained unresolved, “Prodigal Sons” does contain a surprising revelation about his parentage. Shortly after the reunion, Marc learns that his birth mother was Rebecca Welles, daughter of legendary filmmaker Orson Welles and his second wife, screen goddess Rita Hayworth. While Rebecca died before she could meet Marc, the family does get to spend time in Croatia with Welles’ companion Oja Kadar. As Reed notes, “Prodigal Sons” was an unusual and unexpected constellation of events that taught her a lot about the vagaries of documentary filmmaking. Making the movie also gave her fresh insights into her relationship with her family while she transitioned. “Families can be very supportive and loving,” she says. “In my case, I was the one who was withholding. I wanted to go it alone, so I never really gave my family a chance to react.” During the years she was filming “Dark  Money,” Reed’s artistic life took an unexpected turn. Composer Laura Kaminsky and librettist Mark Campbell asked Reed if she wanted to make some films that would be part of an opera. Intrigued, Reed said yes. The result was  “As One,”  a chamber opera for two voices and string quartet. In 15 songs, a mezzo-soprano (Hannah after) and a baritone

(Hannah before) depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world. As work on the opera progressed, Reed ended up working with Campbell on the libretto and several of the songs are based directly on her own experiences. The award-winning piece has made operatic history for its subject matter and for it incredible popularity. Since its premiere in 2014, “As One” has become the most-produced modern opera in North America. According to Opera America it was performed 15 times and was number 14 on the list of most performed operas in the Unites States and Canada. It was the only new work to be included on the list and even beat out old warhorses “Turandot” and “The Barber of Seville.” While her next film project is still under wraps, Reed and her operatic collaborators have already been commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to start work on their next opera. Based on an original concept by Campbell, “Today It Rains” is a new chamber opera inspired by the life of bisexual artist Georgia O’Keefe. Reed is again creating new films to frame the action and is working with Campbell on the libretto. The new opera envisions O’Keeffe’s

personal journey on a life-changing train ride as she reexamines her tumultuous marriage with photographer Alfred Stieglitz, her artistic stasis, and her need for new inspiration to guide her work. “Today It Rains” will premiere in March under the banner of American Opera Projects. So how bleak in Reed’s opinion is the dark  money  phenomenon? She says it’s flooded into states facing ballot initiatives on a variety of progressive issues including unions, reproductive rights and LGBT issues.  “Because bigots don’t want to stand up and say they support discrimination against LGBT people, they hide behind dark money. It’s really maddening. The reason I find campaign finance reform so compelling is that it is the fundamental issue,” Reed says. “You can’t solve any other political problem without knowing where the money is coming from, where the influence is coming from, what you’re up against.” According to Reed, the antidote is disclosure: enforcing existing laws and fighting to get new ones in place.  “What you see in our film, what you see happening across the country, is that states are calling for disclosure. You see it moving like marriage equality did. Pretty soon we’ll hit the tipping point.”

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