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Film Review: trans identities and feminism

Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen (2020)

This documentary is a good way to start reflecting on the experiences of trans individuals, and the representation of trans identities in the movie industry. It was created by Sam Feder, Stacy Goldate and Laverne Cox to narrate the history of this representation in cinema. In this documentary, only trans people intervene and give their views on their experiences with trans representation in Hollywood and American culture in general. In addition, most of the production team were trans people as well. 

This documentary was very well welcomed by the audience.The biggest criticism was that it focused only on American culture, excluding other backgrounds and societies where it may have gone differently. However, it still represents a first opening for individuals and society to talk about trans representation in movies as well as the position of trans individuals within society at large. 

This can be found on Netflix so go check it out! 

Girl (2018)

This Belgian-Dutch film, directed by Lukas Dhont, tells the story of Lara. She is a young girl who wishes to pursue her dream of being a ballerina. Her father is a staunch supporter of her. However, she is having trouble with her changing body because she is going through puberty in a male body, which causes her a lot of problems. The film depicts the difficulties that a young transgirl may face.The way she lives with her body, the fears she encounters when she is interacting in society. 

This film won the Golden Camera, the FIPRESCI Award, and the Queer Palm at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The response in the media was overwhelmingly positive. However, trans activists slammed it, claiming the Girl is voyeuristic. They clarify that there are so many scenes that focus on the main character’s crotch, demonstrating how viewers want to focus on transgender people’s genitals when that is not what matters. Another major critique is that a cisperson played the trans kid which removed a role for a trans person. Moreover, it can create stereotypes of how to perform transness.

Laurence Anyways (2012)

Xavier Dolan, a Quebecois filmmaker, directed this Canadian film. Laurence, who is celebrating her 30th birthday with her gilfriend Fred, comes out as transgender in this film. Her acceptance has many ramifications, the most significant of which is the loss of her girlfriend. Her girlfriend does not embrace the situation, but she supports her as she goes through the physical adjustments and comes to terms with herself.

Her girlfriend, on the other hand, falls out of love due to her sexual orientation and the difficulty to deal with the situation. Laurence also has to deal with physical abuse, mockery, and being fired from her job, among other things. The two women begin a new life separated, but Laurence remains in love with Fred.

The film won many awards, including Best Canadian Feature Film. In Cannes, Xavier Dolan was also awarded the Queer Palm, which he declined because he saw it as an excluding marker. He clarified that it was a way of giving his film a label, which was mostly about love, liberty, and growth. He opposes the practice of categorizing LQBTQ+ films in a different and distinct category because he argued that it was a way to keep them on the margin of the culture. 

Pose (2018-2021)

Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals produced this American series, which consists of three seasons. Via the ballroom and voguing culture of New York in the 1980s, this series depicts African-American and Latinx LGBTQ+ history. Ball culture was an underground culture for Latino and Afro-American LGBTQ+ people where they would “walk the walk” and compete for trophies at the “balls.”

The balls provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people of color to perform a mix of dance, modeling, and lip-syncing. Pose is groundbreaking in that the majority of the cast is composed of trans people, and the story is told from their perspective. Furthermore, the technical crew behind the scenes was largely made up of non-cis people, resulting in an authentic and real portrayal of trans people of color in ball culture which is very uncommon.

Indeed, as previously said, trans people are often depicted in the media and in films in a ridiculous manner. However, this does not negate the fact that the show depicts the various challenges that trans people face, such as unemployment, HIV/AIDS, physical and moral abuse, exclusion, and so on. In this vein, the directors take their characters very seriously in opposition to the usual portrayals where trans characters are usually very exaggerated and mocked.