Trans musician Beverly Glenn-Coppeland’s album Keyboard Fantasies was discovered in 2015 by a Japanese collector before going on to achieve cult status.The story about the discovery of a musical genius took on added poignancy for the fact that Glenn-Copeland had made the groundbreaking album three decades ago in 1986.

Now, a film on his life and music – Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story – is being showcased at  the ongoing online Melbourne Documentary Film Festival that is being held from June 30 until July 15, 2020.

“Like many I had heard Keyboard Fantasies and developed a mild obsession with the record, which led me to an internet wormhole excavating everything I could about the artist. I found a recording of Glenn talking emphatically at the Montreal Red Bull Music Academy. I stalked him down on Facebook, did a reach out and a few Skype calls later we were best buds and it went from there,” director Posy Dixon told Star Observer.

The cancellation of a paid job was the push Dixon needed to use the fees to fund a trip to Nova Scotia to meet Glen and film his rise at the age of 74.

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 Part-interview, part-archival footage and concert, the film tells the story of an artist who made music in obscurity for five decades, before fame and fans found him. “I wanted the film to exist as an audio-visual tapestry of Glenn’s story – so the early parts of his life are represented by archival footage, moving from black and white through to technicolour. For the final part of the film I wanted it to feel like the audience were on the road with Glenn and the band…  it was truly magnificent to get to be on that ride with Glenn and to capture him seeing these huge European audiences for the first time,” said Dixon.

Born in 1944, Beverly Glenn-Copeland stood out from the crowd – the only black student studying classical music at the McGill University in Montreal, one of the few out black lesbian women in Canada before realising he was transgender, and an actor on a Canadian children’s television show. The 1986 album was recorded in an Atari-powered home studio.

“The content of the film was informed by hours and hours of conversation with Glenn – his gender and sexuality is just one facet of his life and story, so that was my intention of how to represent it in the film. Through the filmmaking process we did lots of research into Canadian queer history and spoke with several queer elders from Glenn’s generation, and the more I learnt the more I understood just how remarkable Glenn’s story was and what he would have been through living as an out black lesbian woman at university in the early 60s. So I guess the more I learnt, the more important those themes and that history became as they provide context for the incredibly difficult road that Glenn has travelled,” said Dixon.

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 The film is also worth watching for what the pre-COVID-19 world was. 2020 was the year that would have seen Glenn-Copeland go on a tour of the UK, Europe and Australia. The pandemic has now halted those plans. On June 30, Glenn-Copeland announced the release of a new album on September 25, including a new single, River Dreams – his first new single in 15 years.

Meanwhile, his daughter has started a GoFundMe page for Glenn-Copeland and his wife Elizabeth who are on the verge of becoming homeless.

The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will screen over 90 documentaries, including 50 Australian films. According to the festival organisers there are five local short documentaries from the LGBTQI community. For more information, visit the festival website.

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