film ideas, thoughts and experiences on how the world interacts with otherness

As I step outside of the cinematic reality of Vestida de Azul into the physical reality of the neon-lit reception area in the headquarters of Brighton Pride, I momentarily lose sight of the value and meaning of the film; the space deceives me. I am in the middle of a newly built room adorned in rainbow patterns, sparkly fringe curtains, campy furniture, neon signs that say “PRIDE”, and a photography exhibition about out-and-proud identity.

 

This is what living in Brighton often feels like: symbols and tropes of progress and liberal attitudes conceal the history of fights against oppressive institutions and the poor material conditions that remain unchanged. So what does the film do to the narrative constructed by this space? I feel some tension.

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When watching, Funeral Parade of Roses as a trans person in the 21st century is to peer into the face of a scrying glass and see one’s reflection in another time and place. A shimmering, watery vision of our culture as it was then; in the way we wore our bodies and our genders, the words we used to define ourselves, the futures we foresaw for ourselves as fringe presences in flux against a radically shifting backdrop of social and cultural revolution.


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In 1983, Spanish filmmaker Antonio Giménez-Rico made Vestida De Azul, a Spanish documentary about the daily lives of six trans women in Post-Franco Madrid. The film would find critical acclaim at the time, and yet it has somehow slipped through the cracks of the queer archive. The film’s first English translation was completed this year, and much thanks goes to its translators Ailo Ribas and Sara Yaoska who have resuscitated this gem for an English-speaking audience. 

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When we think of desire, we think of a very specific kind of longing. One which entraps us, obsesses and caresses us. In its most basic form, desire in that longing to obtain what often seems unobtainable. Indeed the origins of the word desire comes from desiderare, which means to await what the stars will bring.

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 None of these scenes are spectacular in themselves but the reason why it rly takes me into the blubber zone is that I’ve just honestly never seen trans narratives told like this before, and haven’t since, which is why Shinjuku Boys holds up so well 25 years later.

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The creature metaphor has prowled through generations of queer storytelling; Todd Haynes’s Poison (1991), De Palma’s Carrie (1976), as body-specific dramatisations of the repression of Otherness ‘in the figure of the Monster’ (Robin Wood). Such a spectacle of repression and release finds its climax in the horror films of Paul Morrissey.

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While many view science fiction as a genre that is merely used as a way to predict what's coming, in today's political climate it feels like Transfinite no longer just inhabits the queer utopia solely through the confines of its screen, but brings us closer to the everyday reality that we collectively share and experience in 2020. 

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What Angie and Tara demonstrate above all else is the multitude of experiences, identities and labels that populate trans life. There is no single defining characteristic or set of requirements that make someone trans, and whilst there is often disagreement—such as with Angie and Tara—over how to define trans existence, they are united in a rejection of—and desire to transform—the normative politics and ways-of-being that engender their suppression. Attempting to bridge this gap, Angie offers a resolution: “let’s say we’re the new women”. 

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Major! (dir  Annalise Ophelian, 2015) is a documentary that provides important context for how we have arrived at this pivotal moment in the pursuit of Black trans liberation, thru focusing on one of its most long standing and influential visionaries.

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