Price: $350.00

    Code: 2368

    Directed by Lydia Nibley
    2009, 51 minutes
    Purchase: $350 | Classroom Rental: $125
    Please inquire for special K-12 and Public Library pricing
    *This film may also be rented to host your own screening - please contact to book a screening.

    A 2011 "Notable Video for Adults" as selected by the American Library Association

    Two Spirits interweaves the tragic story of a mother's loss of her son with a revealing look at the largely unknown history of a time when the world wasn't simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.

    Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine essence, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at sixteen by a young man who bragged to friends that he had "bug-smashed a fag." Two Spirits explores the life and death of a boy who was also a girl and the essentially spiritual nature of gender and sexuality.

    The documentary offers a unique perspective on gender and sexuality, one that is anchored in traditions that were once widespread among the indigenous cultures of North America. The film explores the history of Native two-spirit people—who combine the traits of both men and women with qualities that are also unique to individuals who express multiple genders.

    The Navajo believe that to maintain harmony, there must be a balanced interrelationship between the feminine and the masculine within the individual, in families, in the culture, and in the natural world. Two Spirits reveals how these beliefs were historically expressed in a natural range of sexual and gender diversity. For the first time on film, it examines the Navajo concept of nádleehí, "one who constantly transforms." In Navajo culture, there are four genders; some indigenous cultures recognize more. Although two-spirit people were celebrated in many tribes, as Europeans began to arrive on this continent Native views that the range of human sexuality is not a sin but a gift were met with genocide, the forced imposition of Christianity, and other kinds of subjugation that have resulted in many tribal communities losing touch with their two-spirit traditions. Native activists working to renew their cultural heritage adopted the English term "two-spirit" as a useful shorthand to describe the entire spectrum of gender and sexual expression that is better and more completely described in their own languages. The film demonstrates how they are revitalizing two-spirit traditions and once again claiming their rightful place within their tribal communities.

    Two Spirits mourns the young Fred Martinez and the threatened disappearance of the two-spirit tradition, but it also brims with hope and the belief that we all are enriched by multi-gendered people, and that all of us—regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or cultural heritage—must be free to be our truest selves.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    2011 Independent Lens Audience Award Winner
    2012 GLAAD Media Awards, Outstanding Documentary nominee


    "Riveting... A crash course on Navajo history and culture while illuminating the struggles of [Fred] Martinez, whose detailed murder and mother's grief are devastating.” – LA Weekly

    "A touching and wide-ranging discussion… Based on the story of a young gay/berdache/two-spirit Navajo man who was murdered for his gender nonconformity, the film explores Native American concepts of gender, the gay and alternative-gender movement in the U.S., and the intolerability of gender intolerance. Two Spirits raises many profound and painful points. Powerfully conveys the pain of Fred’s mother at the loss of her son, but it also communicates the strength of Navajo tradition and of gay/two-spirit people.” - Anthropology Review Database

    "A gorgeous, moving, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting story, the kind of film that opens the mind and heart so wide they can never close as tightly again.” - Martha Beck, Oprah magazine columnist and bestselling author

    "A beautiful film, one that poignantly conveys the pain that Paula Mitchell suffered when she lost her child to hate violence. Fred Martinez was murdered simply because he dared to be himself, and the violence against young people like him must stop. We will never be the society we hope to be until we replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance. This very powerful film is an important step on that journey.” - Judy Shepard, President of The Matthew Shepard Foundation

    "This documentary should be considered for purchase by all public and academic libraries, and would find use by those studying U.S. history, gender studies, Native American history and culture, hate crimes, and documentary filmmaking." - Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table(GLBTRT) of the American Library Association (ALA).

    “This emotionally charged documentary explores the difficult issues of intersection of race, culture and sexuality in modern day society… Does an excellent job of presenting information about the two spirit belief and the need for understanding, awareness and preservation of the tradition. Recommended.” - Educational Media Reviews Online

    "A thought-provoking documentary... This is recommended." - Video Librarian