I will do a more detailed schedule post nearer the time, but my US schedule is getting interesting. CUNY Graduate Centre lecture on 17th, pressing the flesh around the comics convention over the weekend, reading at Bluestockings on 22nd, reading at Women and Children First in Chicago on 23rd and then the LGBT centre Chicago on 24th. All this and a social life too.
Meanwhile, at the Festival...
She's a Boy I Knew is a sweet-natured little documentary by Gwen Haworth about her own transition which she got to make as her Master's thesis. It does all the right things about her relationship with her parents and sisters and friends and ex-partner; it is intelligent about the way that she felt before starting transition and that feeling of wrongness which we all share and which can only be put into words with cliches we try to avoid. It is all about support and people getting over their issues and it is pretty much the ideal thing to show for anyone transitioning in their twenties and needing to help family and friends deal with it and vocalize their feelings.
At the same time, there is a hardened cynical side of me which does get a little grumpy. It is the same side of me that sometimes goes very quiet when my young friends are being all bubblesome - they have had no storm and stress, no nightmares of persecution and medical malpractice, and I am glad for them. Yet at the same time, I am not especially jealous, because having paid for something in blood and tears means that you value it highly. I know from stuff online that the anti-trans stuff in the lesbian community is still around, and I am glad that Gwen has not had to deal with it yet; it makes me regret that I can't get to the Vancouver conference...She's a Boy I knew is an honest mildly charming thoroughly useful piece of film-making that does not set anything alight and does not need to.
XXY is an attractive melodrama about intersex which raises a lot of the right questions, does some deft character-drawing and is the least colourful Latin American film you will ever see, set in a coastal town where it is either rainy, cloudy or just glum. Alex is 15 and her parents and she are living with the consequences of not letting doctors 'normalize' her at birth. I say 'she' and 'her' in terms of how Alex is originally presented to us because we only gradually realize that the situation is; Alex is a functional hermaphrodite who has been feminized by drugs that she has stopped taking. Mother Suli is finding herself unable to cope with the social pressures of Alex's teenage experimentations and asks a surgeon and his family to come and stay; Alex's marine biologist father is less convinced that this is a good idea. Alex and the surgeon's son Alvaro start fooling around and this raises some interesting question about who Alvaro is - we realize gradually just what a macho shithead his father is.
The film is positive about Alex's growing sense that perhaps no choices need to be made, that perhaps society needs to cope with variation better, while also presenting the downside of that in a gratingly unpleasant scene of attempted rape. Alex has the potential to made into a victim and has also a quietly predatory and cruel side; I liked the moral complexity of some of the scenes and the fact that we never entirely get what Alex is thinking. At one point Alvaro looks at a sketchbook he finds in Alex's room and we see images of anger and menace as well as of pain and teen angst - Alex is not the standard poster-child of problem-oriented melodrama.
The implicit comparison with the crippled turtles that Kraken has to deal with is one moment of cliche, and his visit to a man in another town who made choices rather than refusing them a piece of PSA too far. Generally though, XXYtranscends preachiness and presents us, appropriately enough, with ambiguity and liminality rather than clear statements - I also loved the performances, especially those by Ricardo Darin as Kraken and Ines Efron as Alex.