Sunday, April 21, 2024

Orlando: My Political Biography is an ode to the eternal and urgent transgender identity

A new film is reaping awards and accolades for its

“Come, come! I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.”

Taking Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography as its starting point, academic virtuoso turned filmmaker Paul B. Preciado has fashioned the documentary, Orlando: My Political Biography, as a personal essay, historical analysis, and social manifesto which premiered and took home four prizes at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival. It was the only non-fiction film to screen at Telluride, Toronto, and New York Film Festival Main Slate.

For almost a century, Woolf’s eponymous hero/heroine has inspired readers for their gender fluidity across physical and spiritual metamorphoses over a 300-year lifetime. An epic narrative inspired by and dedicated to Woolf’s ex-lover, Vita Sackville-West, the classic 1928 novel has long held place in the lesbian-queer-feminist literary canon, as Orlando plays with gender roles and sexuality. But more recently the book has been embraced as an expression of trans and gender-noncomforning people, who have always existed.

Preciado casts a diverse cross-section of more than 20 trans and non-binary individuals in the role of Orlando as they perform interpretations of scenes from the novel, or retell the story from their own experience and in their own words, thus weaving into Woolf’s narrative their own stories of identity and transition.

Not content to simply update a seminal work, Preciado interrogates the relevance of Orlando in the continuing struggle against anti-trans ideologies and in the fight for global trans rights.

Legendary queer film scholar B. Ruby Rich writes in Film Quarterly that Orlando: My Political Biography is “the first trans masterpiece.” Manohla Dargis of The New York Times writes Orlando is “essential…deeply moving.” And Variety praises the film’s “winning humor.”

The film has won Special Jury Award Encounters Section – 2023 Berlin International Film Festival; the Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film – 2023 Berlin International Film Festival; Special Mention Berlinale Documentary Award Jury – 2023 Berlin International Film Festival; and the Tagesspiegel Reader’s Jury Prize for Best Encounters Film – 2023 Berlin International Film Festival, just to name a few of the early accolades.

Orlando: My Political Biography is now showing in New York and LA.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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