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Tomboy goes deep using simple moments

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see article on The Omega‘s website–scroll down to 5th article

please note this is not a part of my current food project

Larkin Schmiedl, Copy Editor  Ω

Transgender children have been coming more to popular awareness lately, with Anderson Cooper featuring a family with a transgender child on his show, CBC’s Passionate Eye looking at the topic back in January, and CNN covering it last September.

Director Celine Sciamma engaged this topic with her second film, Tomboy, which played on Saturday, Mar. 10 at the Kamloops Film Festival. Tomboy shows us in intimate detail the life of a 10-year-old transgender child during a pivotal summer in his life.  It’s a French film, and was made in 2011.

Tomboy keeps a slow pace, but rather than being tedious, it allows viewers to absorb the significance of each moment as it unfolds.

‘Laure’ is the oldest daughter of two in a close loving family.  When her  family moves to a new neighbourhood, she introduces herself as Mikael to Lisa, the first other kid she meets.  Lisa later falls for Mikael, leading to complications down the road.

Mikael begins living as a boy all summer long, without the knowledge of his family.

The movie comes across first and foremost as a story about a specific person’s struggle with gender identity, and this is where it succeeds and draws its power.

Mikael carries a silent, inexpressive air with him throughout most of the film.  His muted expressions convey the palpable sense of the weight he carries, of the secret he feels he can’t tell anyone.

The cinematography was brilliant, revealing the emotions of characters even during moments of silence through close-up face shots.

Tomboy is not depressing, but interesting, educational, fun and extremely well-storied. Each event contributes to the plot in some way and nothing is wasted.

Mikael is always quietly calculating and on guard, having to construct scenarios to prop up his new identity.  As a result he is rarely able to be open and spontaneous as a child.  This tension is felt through the screen as everyday scenarios play out.

During a soccer game with the neighbourhood kids, Mikael sits out.  The boys are playing a shirts versus skins game, and that night, Mikael goes home and inspects his chest in the mirror.

He practices spitting in the sink like he saw another boy do during the game.

The following day, he strips off his shirt and plays along with the others.  He even spits.
The body dysphoria experienced by many transgender people is shown when Mikael looks at himself in the mirror different times, trying to adjust what he sees to fit his image of himself as a boy.

His yearning to fit into this image is tangible.

When the kids later decide to go swimming, Mikael takes his bathing suit into his bedroom and cuts off the top half to create trunks.  He folds in the jagged cut top and models his new suit in the mirror, and smiles widely with glee.

Mikael realizes he must fashion a penis to wear in it, so he sits down with the play-dough machine beside his sister and fashions a small roll.

The audience laughed most at the parts of the film where this makeshift penis was shown.

For anyone who likes a film showing people and their relationships, that describes psychological dynamics profoundly through straightforward life moments, or who’s interested in gender or wants to know more, Tomboy is a must-see.

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Written by larkinschmiedl

March 14, 2012 at 1:45 am

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