Monday, March 29, 2010

LLGFF: Gender Variant

Still from Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music PerformanceRiot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music Performance (dir Madsen Minax)

The Last Summer of La Boyita (dir Julia Solomonoff)

Although the LLGFF lags a bit behind the times in remaining L and G, rather than expanding to LGBTQI (have I missed any acronyms???), there is an increasing number of transgender-related films in the programme, including these, the first a doc on gender-variant musicians in the USA (and one in Canada), the second a thoughtful Argentina-set drama.

While the musicians in Riot Acts are public performers, performing in bars, clubs and at festivals, they are also managing quite private situations, sometimes still transitioning or changing identity. Some are on testosterone, some are still getting to grips with changes in vocal range or quality, wondering how their efforts to synchronise their bodies and minds will affect their music. I was particularly impressed with the low-key dignity of Joe from Coyote Grace, an acoustic duo from Sonoma, CA. Joe had a particularly interesting story: he got together with his musical and life partner as a woman and then transitioned, meaning their personal and private lives had to go through a shift. They still play lesbian bars, causing him to reflect: "Why should that be a surprise? I love being here."

No such self-knowledge for Mario, the rural, teenaged farmhand in The Last Summer of La Boyita. Worked as hard as the horses by his brutish father, he finds a friend in Jorgelina, who visits with her father, the farm's owner, for a summer and discovers it isn't just her older sister who is going through the full range of growing pains, including developing breasts and menstruating. Unfortunately, for Mario, rural Argentina isn't the greatest place to be gender-variant, and the story is painful to watch as it plays out, unfolding slowly, with layers of meaning being unwrapped. It reminded me a bit of XXY, with the teenaged character showing far more poise and dignity than the adults. Perhaps there is a bit of a boom in such stories in Argentina.

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