Dancer Dysphoria

Girl

Director: Lukas Dhont

Cast: Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Oliver Bodart, Katelijne Damen, Valentin Dhaenens

Flemish with English Subtitles

Warning this film is not for sensitive viewers and contains a strong adult theme.

Nominated for a 2019 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Belgian director’s Lukas Dhont’s intimate and controversial examination of gender dysphoria in Girl is a fascinating and touching film to watch.

Girl examines the fictionalized story of Lara a fifteen year old cisgender person who is in the transitional process of having gender reassignment surgery from being a boy to a girl, all while dealing with puberty and her desire to be a ballerina in Ghent. Girl is inspired by the true story of Nora Monsecour a professional dancer and transwoman in Belgium who experienced gender dysphoria.

Traditional definitions of binary gender roles are smashed in this explicit examination of what a trans-teenager has to deal with in a society which has preconceived stereotypical notions of what defines masculine and feminine and the roles associated with those binary definitions.

In society, there is still stigmatization of boys wanting to do ballet and director Lukas Dhont examines this intense stigma with a far more psychological twist as Lara has to not only deal with the rigours of training as a female ballerina but also the shame associated with having a penis. Lara even uses a separate change room from the other traditionally female ballerinas.

In a particularly poignant scene, Lara’s French father Matthias asks a group of young men to help carry heavy furniture upstairs as they move apartments, whilst Lara flits around uninterested in the heavy lifting.  Played by Arieh Worthaler, Matthias is supportive of his cisgender person’s decision to psychologically and physically transform from a boy to a girl with all the associated trauma involved.

While Girl fixates too much on the actual genital transformation highlighted by one particularly disturbing scene when Lara cuts off the penis with a pair of scissors in front of a mirror, Girl ultimately is a psychological film about transition, shame and stigmatization and has divided the transgender community in Europe and America and will continue to produce some fascinating post film conversations.

Director Lukas Dhont is young and brave enough to tackle such a controversial subject in his debut feature film Girl, helped enormously by the transformative acting of Belgian actor Victor Polster who is in virtually in every frame of the film. Girl gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is an incredibly brave cinematic debut from a first time director. Recommended viewing for those that savour discerning cinema.

Girl deservedly won the Queer Palm award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival is now going to be shown in South African cinemas at the European Film Festival – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/. Be sure to catch this fascinating Belgian film at Cinema Nouveau in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria from Friday 29th November  to Sunday 8th December 2019.

Hopefully in 2020, Durban can once again be included on the itinerary for the European Film Festival and we can galvanize support for this important cinematic event.

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