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'Orlando, my Political Biography,' NYFF 2023
'Orlando, my Political Biography,' (FLC Press)

Film Review: ‘Orlando, My Political Biography’ Explores Trans People Past and Present

Perhaps the most thought-provoking film screening at the 2023 New York Film Festival is Orlando, My Political Biography by Paul B. Preciado. Its unique approach and perspective rock the house. Screening in the Main Slate section of the festival in French with English subtitles, it’s a hybrid of documentary, fictional narrative and political, philosophical treatise.

With its great substance and depth the film bears seeing twice to digest the concepts, themes and sage commentary.

Virginia Woolf’s Prescient ‘Orlando’

Initially, Preciado magnifies Virginia Woolf as a prescient maverick for her time. When Woolf in her first novel Orlando created a character who changes sex, she anticipated the current trans movement. To acknowledge Woolf as a cultural forerunner, Preciado, a trans writer, activist and philosopher, created the film as a letter to her.

The film explores the character of Orlando as trans over 100 years later, living a life unimagined in Woolf’s time.

To explore Orlando as a symbolic parallel updated for today, Preciado organizes a casting call for the film. Next, he selects 26 contemporary trans and non-binary individuals. Importantly, these include people from eight to 70 years old. Finally, each embodies Orlando and when introduced, looks in the camera and states, “I am Orlando.” Then, a set dresser places a characteristic and humorous ruff (from the 1600s) around the present Orlando. This ruff bonds all the present Orlandos to Woolf’s character who moves through time.

Orlando, My Political Biography, NYFF 2023 (FLC Press)

Trans Lives Past and Present

In effect Preciado gives an informative perspective of trans lives past and present. He explores political issues surrounding gender, but prioritizes humanity. Rejecting stereotypes, he asks viewers to open their hearts and minds to receive his message. Primarily, it is that trans people have always lived as humans have lived, even when storytellers neglected to share their stories.

At times Preciado wanders from his message in attempting to center his presentation of Orlandos through history. Suggesting that Woolf created an “unintentional” novel of trans power, he elevates the novel’s message to one he can identify with. Thus, a key point he makes relates to Orlando losing hereditary titles and land because of becoming a woman. Likewise, for many trans people after they transitioned, their lives lost status.

Trans People Risk Their Lives to Establish Their Identities

In conclusion Preciado emphasizes that trans people risk their lives to attain the freedom to be who they are. They must confront laws, social history, perspectives about psychology and mental health and not be defined by them. Also, they must cast aside folkways about “normality, and family relationships. Declaring oneself a trans person establishes a political position, a bulwark of freedom. State definitions demean, oppress and destroy. At the very end of the film Preciado has a judge free his selected Orlandos.

Above all Preciado’s film is funny yet sober in affirming the humanity of trans individuals whose courage and freedom must be appreciated. For tickets to this moving, resonant film, visit the NYFF 2023 website.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' (https://caroleditosti.com/) 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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