Last week, an event occurred in the Russian box office from the category of incredible - the film by Lucas Donte "Girl" was released, which took four "palm branches" at the last Cannes Film Festival. The tape tells the story of the transgender ballerina Lara, and while cisgender film critics scattered in praise for The Girl, the queer community was not so unambiguous in their responses. We decided to find out from the representatives of the trans-community that the authors of the film did not succeed, but why its creation and release is already an important precedent.
As far as I know, the American queer community scolded the film for being directed by a cis director and starring a cis actor as a transgender girl. At the same time, the main character of the film has a prototype - the Belgian transgender ballerina Nora Monsecourt, who advised the creators of the tape and approved the casting.
I understand the wishes for the films about transgender people to be directed by the transgender people themselves - for them to play the corresponding roles, but specifically here I see technical difficulties. It turns out that it was necessary to find a transgender-teenage-girl-ballerina-actress at the beginning of the transition, who would be ready to act in explicit scenes. It seems to me that there are not very many people who would fit these criteria. Plus, such filming can be traumatic for a transgender person at the beginning of the transition due to a difficult relationship with the body - the same gender dysphoria that is much talked about in the film.
I liked "Girl", I liked the casting and acting - it is clear that there was a transconsultant. This has little to do with my personal experience, after all, very different realities: this whole supportive medical system, understanding family and school look like a pipe dream for me. In addition, I began my transition much later - and in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, some things resonate - all these difficulties with toilets, showers, the need to hide their corporeality. Latent irritation was caused by the fact that a person has ideal conditions, but she still suffers. It seems, “I would have had this, but I would…” Although it is clear that gender dysphoria does not go anywhere even in the most beautiful environment, even in situations where your studies and future profession are directly related to physicality. It is also great that this film was shown on a wide screen in Russia - maybe those who watched it will have a little more empathy for transgender people.
The film "Girl" made a strong impression on me - after watching it, I was furious. A dozen questions for the scriptwriter and director were spinning in my head, starting with "What the hell?" and ending with "So what did you mean by that?" For me personally, a transgender woman with experience of bodily dysphoria, which reached the strongest psychosomatic pain in the genital area, this film is an incomprehensible collection of triggers. Of course, there are several psychologically strong moments in the script, incredibly poignant scenes, but they do not save the tape as a whole.
The constant fixation on the genitals and the vague image of the heroine kill everything. Who is she? Strong and strong-willed and suffering for some high purpose? And why is this silent heroism in such an accepting environment? An eccentric teenager who is emotionally carried away by hormone therapy? Suffering victim of circumstance to be born "in the wrong body"? The image of the heroine did not arouse the slightest empathy in me. I don’t want to admire her, I don’t want to enter into her position, I don’t want to feel sorry for her.
Of course, I look at this story from the perspective of my experience, I am a product of a completely different environment, I made my transition not thanks to, but in spite of.I made my decisions on my own, implemented them at my own expense, took all the risks and thought through a million nuances and circumstances. I know hundreds of stories of transgender people, including several with selfharms. But, damn it, it's one thing when nothing shines for you in your life, and another thing is when at eighteen you are guaranteed to get what you want.
However, I want to mention the excellent acting and the selection of the type. It doesn't matter to me at all whether he is cis or not. I do not share the outrage of the part of the trans-community that stigmatizes the film for the fact that the heroine is not played by a transgender actress. In general, I have little idea how you can find a young transgirl for such a role. Acting is not about showing your personal experience (imagine what it is like to act with your own dysphoria), but about convincingly convey the experience of another person. And Victor Polster did it great.
I will not say that such films cannot be filmed, they say, he somehow does not represent transpeople in such a way. I believe that you can shoot anything, the freedom of creativity should not be limited. And the release of the film in wide distribution in Russia, of course, is an incredibly successful event. Raising the topic of transgender is a necessary step towards accepting the fact that we exist in the here and now. However, personally, I would like a different representation of transgender characters - heroes whose experience is not limited only to the transition period and is not focused solely on medical aspects.
author of the telegram channel "Mirno"
I watched the scandal around The Girl and I want to say that it's hard to disagree with the negative reviews of Western queer critics. The plot really reproduces the stigmatizing narrative about transgender, focusing on the bodily aspect, and with a considerable amount of objectification. For example, I was unpleasantly struck by the duration of the frames in which the camera follows the hips of the main character and her classmates swimming in the pool. It was striking that in the described world the transgender community is completely absent: Lara does not seek support from people with similar experience even on the Internet. She seems to be the only one in the whole world, and only cisgender people help and "guide" her. And, of course, the ending raises the most questions. I am very frightened by the idea that for someone it can become a guide to action - in the film, self-harm is presented as a simple way to solve the problem of bodily dysphoria without consequences.
Despite all this, no matter how hard I tried, I cannot accept the position of “ban, cancel, prohibit filming at all”. Yes, I really want films about transgender people to be reliable, to be created by people who share the experience of their characters, so that our representation in popular culture is of high quality and diverse. Yes, "Girl" does not fit well into this framework. But I believe that even such things are an opportunity to take the next step. This is, after all, a news feed, thanks to which our criticism can be heard. It is important to bear in mind that the rental of Girls in Europe and the rental of Girls in Russia are two very different social phenomena. Our realities differ significantly, and the Russian public almost never hears the word “transgender”. Would it be better if she didn't hear him at all?
In addition, The Girl has strong details - for example, the subtly noted wicked irony of the Cissexist world attempting to be "friendly." Lara's entourage unanimously repeats to her: "You are already a woman, because you identify yourself this way, no matter what your body looks like." And at the same time, Lara perfectly sees that the world around is literally obsessed with genitals, their shape and how it relates to gender. There are many warm and tender scenes of Lara's communication with her younger brother, her father's attempts to help and support because of his understanding and capabilities - we finally see a story about a loving and accepting family.Which, perhaps, is not so little.
Girl is a film about routine. About the daily inconveniences a transgender person faces, regardless of the environment in which they are. About the harm that a person inflicts on himself in an attempt to somehow relieve dysphoria, because otherwise it is impossible to live at all. I myself lived this way and, among other things, inflicted bodily harm on myself, consciously and not so much. For example, while still in school, I wore two or three belts for pants at once, tightening them in the pelvic area so that it was painful to move even my brains - I tried to "force" the pelvic bones not to grow in breadth. Twice he inflicted injuries on himself in the chest area in order to injure the gland - and this is not counting the constant selfharma. Did I know then that the transition is possible? Oh sure. Did I know then that the transition is available? Yes, definitely. But I lived in the "now", which seemed absolutely bleak.
"Girl" is definitely a private story. Cinema is absolutely not about representing trans-people as a community, because there is no trans-community in the film. I believe that the atmosphere of isolation was not deliberately invented for the film, but this is just modern reality: I am a little familiar with the situation in Germany, where transgender transition procedures are included in health insurance. There is practically no trans-community there, because there is no need for it either: there is information, diagnostics are available, you can get help in the desired amount without enormous financial costs. And if all this is there, then the list of topics for discussion "with friends" is greatly reduced and the field for the emergence of collective identity remains not so great. This may have a downside: when there is no one to share life-forming memes with, life greatly reduces the quality.
I would like there to be a place in the cinema for as many films on the transtema as possible: for those that show the life of a transgender person as a success story, and for those in which stories of coping are told, and for those in which this life not shown from the front side. Because none of these areas is better than the other.
Lara and I have different trans experiences: from childhood she understood what she wanted, and a little later I realized that I was not happy with my life. Overall, I liked the film. A lot of things responded, reminded me of my own adolescence. I was just as easily accepted in the family with all my non-conformities and non-standard features, they always helped me to follow the desired path, supported my hobbies. In the same way, I killed parts of my own body in order to teach them certain actions. Lara learned to dance by washing her feet into the blood, and I learned to play the guitar by washing my hands into the blood.
Its difficulties are quite real, even if in our reality they seem far-fetched and toy. Of course, if Lara grew up in a transphobic family, and then suddenly found herself in a host, then everything would be different. But she is used to living in an understanding society, so the things that seasoned Russian transmen don't even notice knock her out of her rut.
For me, this film is not about transgenderness as such, but about love and acceptance, which are not always enough to feel like a happy person. Lack of trust and lack of self-confidence that lead to disaster. The transgender character of the heroine simply emphasizes her loneliness in society. After watching it, I realized that it is very important to support loved ones the way they need it themselves, and when you need support, it is important to find the strength in yourself to tell about it.
activist, public author
"Chloe Space Lesbian"
My transgender story is very similar to that of the main character. Self-hatred. Unwillingness to see your body - and a desire to quickly change everything. Impotence. When I started taking hormones, I also cried constantly - few people know about such things.However, although I understand the heroine, my transgender story is still not my life story.
In this film, the focus is only on transgender, and I think that's why cis hetero people get it, but the queer community doesn't. It seems to me that many do not understand that transgender people live more than just being trans. Whereas the queer community knows that being trans is only part of a person and one of a bunch of identities. I am a transgender person, but at the same time a lesbian, and I put my identity as a lesbian much higher than a transgender status. Therefore, cinema, which is tied only to the transition, often evokes the reaction "Well, here it is again."
LGBT people are constantly shown as suffering - yes, we often face problems, but at the same time, there are a lot of queer people in the world who are happy. Perhaps I have a privileged position, since I have already made the transition and live with my fiancée. And, perhaps, this film will go to teenagers more. However, there are a lot of people in the community who do not attach any importance to their transgenderness at all. Where are the films about transsuperheroin? Or a non-binary analogue of Rambo? Or transparent - the hero of the musical? Transgender is part of the personality: some have more, some have less. Therefore, making a film that is completely about this, as for me, is not very good.
On the one hand, what is generally said about transgender is progress. Previously, transmen were shown as painted men of about forty. The most egregious examples are Dallas Buyers Club or Twin Peaks (although I even like the trans woman in Twin Peaks because she kicks asses). Maybe this is also partly why the LGBT community does not approve of The Girl: this is again a movie in which a man played a girl, albeit convincingly. On the other hand, I do not believe that such tapes are beneficial to the LGBT community. If you choose between painted men in wigs and films where the creators tried hard and the actors play convincingly, then such films should be shot. If you choose between such films and films where transgenderness is shown more realistically or transgender people kick ass villains (or at least live happily), then such films should not be made. "Girl" is in the gray area.
My acquaintance with this film began with reading controversy about it on the Internet, mainly devastating reviews of representatives and allies of the LGBT community. After watching the movie itself, to tell the truth, I had a desire to swear at these representatives and allies with bad words.
The film is accused of "bad representation" of the transgender experience. Indeed, the main character Lara can hardly be called a “correct” and “progressive” transgender girl: despite the affectionate attitude of relatives and doctors, despite their words, which sound like motivating posts from Tumblr's trans-communities (they say, “you’re a girl anyway,” “I see yourself a beautiful girl”,“enjoy yourself”), Lara, obviously, does not accept herself, she is withdrawn and anxious, she tortures her own body. All this plus the frankly body-horror ending looks, of course, not very inspiring and positive. However, I saw in Lara a reflection of my own experience much clearer and more detailed than in any other film.
There are not many words in "Girl" - almost everything is conveyed with the help of the camera's gaze and the main character's facial expressions. The way she hides her eyes in an elevator or subway, how her face freezes, how rarely she speaks herself (and never laughs out loud) - in all this I recognized my own daily experience. The way the camera - embodying, in my opinion, not the director's fetishistic gaze, as some critics have expressed, but the attention of the heroine herself - is fixed on her body, on her arms, shoulders, genitals, how she glides over the bodies of other girls, feeling herself in them quite comfortable - all this best recreates on the screen this endless, painful obsession of a transgender person with an ideal body image, non-existent and unattainable, but nevertheless absorbing all thoughts. I’m glad if any of the transgender film critics have a different experience, but to accuse this film of “misrepresentation” is to say that my personal experience of being trans is wrong.
It seems to me that in this film you can read a wider, political context: as liberal inclusiveness (whose representatives in the film are Lara's psychologist and partly her father), celebrating diversity, but never forgetting who is transgender, who is not white, who is with disability and so on, creates a beautiful picture of universal acceptance, but does nothing about the feelings of otherness and alienation that they experience. Lara says this: she doesn't want to be an inspiring example, she wants to be just a girl. And the tragic impossibility of this desire is only aggravated by the tactfulness of her loved ones.
The only moment that seemed artificial to me was the ending of the film, not even the self-harm scene itself, but a confident and healthy Lara before the credits. I understand that it was convenient for the director to end the movie with a cathartic act of violence and a happy ending. But it seems to me that in life such stories never end at all. Overall, though, I am ready to recommend this film to anyone who would like to touch the experience of transgender - and besides, it is just very well filmed.
The editors would like to thank Sasha Kazantseva for her help in preparing the material, the author of the telegram channel "I washed my hands" and one of the creators of the site "Open"
PHOTOS: HHG Film Company