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Transgender Remembrance Day, which films to see: the list

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November 20 is Transgender Remembrance Day and for the occasion we have selected a very personal list of titles. These are films that have at least tried to do justice to a part of the community that has remained historically marginalized and underrepresented: below, the films in question.

Transgender Day of Remembrance – in English Transgender Day of Remembrance, TDoR – was created by Gwendolyn Ann Smith on November 20, 1999. The birthday was born in memory of Rita Hestler, an African-American woman and transsexual, who was brutally killed in her apartment in the Allston neighborhood of Boston in November 1998. Originally conceived as a candlelight vigil, the commemoration has spread like wildfire to many other cities, internationally, even arriving in Italy. In Rome, for example, we also remember the murder of Andrea Oliviero, a 28-year-old transsexual found dead at Termini station; on November 20, 2016, the first TDoR was also celebrated in Sanremo.

Transgender Remembrance Day

Transgender Day of Remembrance, how much has representation in cinema changed?

In short, in order not only to combat hate crimes but also to promote correct education in the field of inclusion, it is necessary to talk about it. And what better than to go through the audiovisual language, especially the cinema? It must be said that, especially in recent years, the queer gaze – the story from the queer point of view – and especially the transgender gaze has made giant strides in terms of storytelling. Just think, for example, of the decision – increasingly circumvented – to cast cisgender performers in roles intended for transgender people, helping to perpetuate the misrepresentation and, therefore, perception of the trans community and/or or not binary. A paradigm shift also due to theme clearance thanks also to serial media products such as Orange Is the New Black, Sense8, Pose and Euphoria. But nothing would have been possible without certain titles taken here as an example.

Some titles to collect: two necessary cults

“It’s not like I’m a real woman, I can say…have kids…Not even a man and say tomorrow I’m getting married. I nun sugnu neither canni nor fish, I am Mery, Mery forever. Directed by Marco Risi and based on the homonymous novel by Aurelio Grimaldi, Mery is forever inspired by the story of Mery Libassi, a transsexual prostitute arrested after injuring one of her clients. Played by actress Alessandra Di Sanzio, who in the years following the film embarked on the path of transition, Mery is a young inmate in juvenile detention, with other children with difficult stories behind them.

forever maryWikimedia Commons

The film, released in 1989, was a real turning point in Italian cinema, able to dismantle the false hedonism of the 1980s and, above all, to tell a story with an unexpected mixture of delicacy and authenticity rarely seen on the big screens. Italians. filter. And in this claim to a denied identity resides the very meaning of the protagonist and, more generally, of being transgender: “I am Mery, Mery forever”. From local cult to international cult, another headline up for grabs on Global Transgender Day of Remembrance is unquestionably Paris is Burning.

Directed by Jennie Livingston and dated 1990, it is a documentary with the late Venus Xtravaganza focused on the history of New York ballroom culture in the 1980s. In terms of queer visibility, it is therefore a precursor, since he explores the life of the Afro-American LGBTQIA+ community, for 6 years, through interviews interspersed with scenes of dance competitions to the sound of vogueing. Also, the relationship between drag culture and transsexuality that is established during the 78-minute runtime is interesting.

World Transgender Day of Remembrance: what other films to watch

“We are all the more authentic that we resemble the idea that we dreamed of.” it is Agrado who speaks, at the end of the irreverent and famous monologue taken from All About My Mother, by Pedro Almodovar. The transsexual woman – masterfully played by actress Antonia San Juan Fernandez, one of the muses of the Spanish director – does not hide behind bourgeois hypocrisy; it does not hide what is obvious to everyone, that is to say its artefact aspect, but naturally enhances it. This same naturalness through which she represents herself – rightly – as a woman, without seeking the tolerance of others. Because deep down, there’s no need for justification when you’re just yourself.

Duncan Tucker’s independent cult Transamerica departs from a stereotypical – and sometimes hyper-sexualized – view. A 2005 road movie that deftly alternates comedy and drama, follows the story of Bree (Felicity Huffman), who is about to undergo permanent surgery. Two steps from the finish line, he will discover unexpected news: a son was born from his only relationship before embarking on the path of transition. Under the guidance of the psychologist, she will embark on a journey to get to know the boy which will lead her to a deeper knowledge of herself. For her performance, Felicity Huffman earned a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination.

Boys Don’t Cry certainly has more dramatic implications, which goes well with the spirit of transgender memorial day. Directed by Kimberly Peirce and released in 1999, it is based on the openly transphobic murder of transgender boy Brandon Teena, played here by Oscar winner Hilary Swank. The storytelling is brutal, sometimes difficult to support or accept, much like the unfair fate of Brandon Teena.

What other movies to recover

Set in catholic and sectarian Ireland of the 60s, Breakfast on Pluto is directed by Neil Jordan (same director of the transgender cult The Soldier’s Wife, also to be recovered). Released in 2005 and based on the 1998 novel of the same name, the film stars Cillian Murphy – the Thomas Shelby of Peaky Blinders – as the protagonist, born Patrick Braden, as she searches for her true identity. Characterized by a discreet narrative originality, it also received critical acclaim for the interpretation of Murphy, nominated for a Golden Globe.

For Transgender Remembrance Day, we also recommend two Italian titles little known to the general public: The Mouth of the Wolf and A New Day. The first, directed by Pietro Marcello and released in 2009, is halfway between fiction and documentary and tells the true story of a couple, made up of Enzo and Mery. Once out of prison, he will find his companion, a transsexual woman, to whom he is united by a deep feeling of love. The second, more recent, was released in 2016 and is directed by Stefano Calvagna. The film follows the story of Giulia – a transsexual girl – recounting her daily life marked by the path of transition.

Latest titles

Finally, two international titles, among the most recent on the list and acclaimed by critics: The Danish Girl and Girl. The first, directed by Tom Hooper and released in 2015, features Eddie Redmayne’s poignant performance as painter Lili Elbe – née Einar Wegener – the first woman in history to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Thanks to the complicity with his wife Gerda – played by Alicia Vikander, rewarded by the Oscar – he will become aware of his true nature.

The second, however, was directed by Lukas Dhont and released in 2018. The story revolves around Lara – Viktor Polster – a young dancer who tries to hide all male anatomical features, waiting to face the transition path. But the pitfalls will not be lacking for the young protagonist, who will have to face the hypocrisy of a respectable society, ready to welcome her with words but not prepared to support her in the drama she experiences on a daily basis: that of living in a body that she does not recognize as her own.

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