Film elevates representation of transgender community

In an emerald palace trimmed with gold, The Geneseo Riviera on Main Street presented A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica) on Thursday Oct. 25. This presentation was a part of the Transgender Identities on Film series, a 2018-19 program for the Alan Lutkus International Film Series at Geneseo.

This powerful and moving film, directed by Sebastián Leilo in 2017, displays the trials and tribulations of Marina, a transgender woman trying to mourn the loss of the man she loved. She finds herself under critical investigations from those with no regard for privacy or identity.

Assistant professor of history Ryan Jones introduced the film alongside his research on the LGBTQ+ history of Latin America. Jones discussed the connection between the film and President Donald Trump’s attempt to make transgender individuals virtually nonexistent through proposed guidelines and laws regarding citizenship, gender and sexual identity. 

“The Trump administration essentially wants to erase transgender people … relying on the belief of a narrow sexual system,” Jones said. “Many have called transgender people, non-binary people, LGBTQ people deviants or freaks and mocked them in public. Now yet again they use the power of the state to attack this vulnerable population.”  

Jones spoke of this timely issue as he also described some of the issues in Latin America. Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is proof of concerning Latin American leadership, as he has promoted the use of beatings to punish gay Brazilians, according to Jones. 

Jones spoke of two different transitions that took place in Latin America in a presentation that intrigued the audience of town residents and college students. The issues associated with the treatment of transgender people dealt closely with many issues from A Fantastic Woman.

The film was a breathtaking and winding story that displayed the terrible treatment many people like Marina face. Marina was played by Daniela Vega who is a transwoman herself. The emotional film proved relevant as many people today misgender and erase those in the transgender community. 

History major senior Alison Coggins found the film both enlightening and emotional.

“The movie shows the importance of understanding love and acceptance,” Coggins said. “While watching, we could see the pain and heartbreak of everything.” 

The audience found the main character’s struggle with people depriving her of her right to see her deceased loved one a horrible mistreatment. There is no excuse for the physical and verbal abuse Marina receives, but is unfortunately a common occurrence. 

History and English double major junior Sarah Healy was touched by the relationships between Marina and others in the movie. 

The most impactful part was seeing the context in which the other characters treated Marina,” Healy said. “The film did a good job in portraying the way in which people think that properly gendering transgender people is a privilege rather than basic human decency.” 

The film and presentation by Jones delineated the lack of understanding and acceptance of human nature. When discussing the importance of the event, many audience members mentioned the need for respect and understanding for fellow human beings. 

“You can always improve and become more aware; it can be easy for some people to overlook these issues in day to day life,” Healy said. “It’s important to be more aware as it’s a serious issue, especially now.” 

Awareness brought by presentations like this are great steps towards better recognition, but there is more progress to be made. Jones’s presentation proves these issues transcend history into modern politics and lead us to push forward to gain respect for all human beings no matter the gender.