Sunday, December 07, 2008

[Asian Festival of 1st Films] Sex My Life (Khastegi)


If living a life as a transsexual is difficult enough as it is, with the grappling of social prejudices and the likes, imagine if one happens to be a transsexual in a closed society, how torturous that would be given low tolerance for anything deemed out of the ordinary.

Directed by Bahman Motamedian, this Iranian movie explores the lives and times of seven real life transsexuals in Tehran, where we hear the life stories of the protagonists in real terms, having to enact those dark moments in their lives themselves, and be brutally honest about it, taking on the system straight at its horns. While this remains a dramatic narrative film, it plays out more like a pseudo-documentary with talking heads, where the story is interspersed at appropriate moments where the person in question would come on, and talk about their experience.

To most, it's a perversion that brings shame to their families, but to themselves, they see it nothing more as a disorder that they have to come to terms with, whether society frowns upon them or not. You can imagine the mountain to climb when they have to deal with the authorities with regards to their identities, being dressed entirely differently from their gender stated in official documents. They can subject to constant ridicule and face prejudice from all walks of life in society and worse, from their own family members. In the workplace, they find difficulty in getting gainful employment.

But if you take a step back, they too share the same loves and fears that every human being do. Our need for acceptance and love from family, friends and a significant other if you're lucky, facing doubts, uncertainties and fears in our lives, but all the more amplified in their instance especially so when you're brought up and live in a strict closed society, where becoming a woman means to lose your rights and freedom. Situations can become extreme and desperate, and I'd consider it desperate if one has to contemplate selling one's organs in order to raise money to undergo an operation. But you cannot deny the inner strength that they have, and the ingenuity in coming up with smart, witty retorts to shut people up.

Just as how the AFFF Festival Director Sanjoy K Roy had said in his address in the programme notes that films open our eyes to some things which we have no access to, Khastegi chronicles and documents the struggles of transsexuals, and in the light of that struggle, comes positive vibes in their courage for independence despite what others might think.

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