This, then, was the McKerrow constituency for the 20th high-school reunion in Helena: not just Kimberly Reed, the transgender filmmaker from New York City, but Marc McKerrow, the fun-loving partier, now replaced by Marc McKerrow, the forgetful, slightly impaired, and heavily medicated guy occasionally given to violence. The reunion attendees, 200-odd, knew about Kim, because she had come home for her father's funeral, knew to expect her to be a her, but most of them knew nothing about Marc. He had spent the decades suffering largely in silence, hadn't even successfully graduated from high school in the first place, so his name tag had to be hand-lettered on the spot with no photo on it.
In the months before the reunion, Marc decided to learn more about his biological parents. There was information only on his biological mother. She too had lived something of a helter-skelter life, sometimes in squats, sometimes not in the best of shape. But there was a lot of information about Marc's grandparents, because Marc's mother, the free spirit, the hippie, was the daughter of two of the most famous entertainment figures of all time—the very biggest names in Hollywood. What if the couple was Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth? By the time Marc was in touch with his mother, by the time he was sure he wanted to meet with her, she was on her deathbed. No meeting ever took place. His grandparents were gone too. However, Marc McKerrow did, after the reunion, find himself in touch with Orson Welles' last great love, Oja Kodar, the Croatian star of F for Fake. Soon he was off to the Balkans to meet her, having never before set foot outside the USA. Somehow, through the agency of a specifically American fate, from the great citadel of show business, Marc had fallen into the family of an ophthalmologist out in Big Sky country. And all the while, despite the malevolent scar on his head, it was clear that he really was the spitting image of the director of Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.
If this all sounds kind of farcical, it's because it's hard to document in a mere recitation of the facts. You begin to get a sense of the darker shadows in the McKerrow clan when you see the video footage they shot of themselves, which culminates in Prodigal Sons itself. In one of Paul's childhood films, "Mad Doctors," for example, Marc plays the "Crazy Kid," who is given to Incredible Hulk-like fits of acting-out, and Kim feels certain that even then she was trying to understand his "erratic behavior," and then there's Todd, who came out as gay while Kim was transitioning, cast in numerous cross-dressing roles. At the same time, the father also lugged around primitive video equipment, and filmed the big football games. He filmed the holidays. The McKerrows are nearly as film-addicted as the Friedmans of Capturing the Friedmans. And so perhaps it's a matter of course that despite Kim's inability to talk at length about her own hardships, she is completely willing to document Marc, as he is willing to be violent for all to see. I asked Kim why, in the scene in Prodigal Sons in which she is getting beaten by her brother, she didn't hit back. Though she said that "not hitting him back may be a typically feminine response," it's not that she recoiled because she is given to typically feminine responses ("I feel like I'm making peace with both sides of myself") but that she still cares about her brother, no matter his dire circumstances.