A Fantastic Woman is a story about fighting for identity in a society that refuses to acknowledge your existence.
by Aisiri Amin
Often the fight for gender equality is restricted to binary identities; male and female. In this struggle to break the societal norms, the trans identity gets excluded and pushed to the periphery. Today, trans persons are still trying to find their footing in a world that refuses to acknowledge them.
In the Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman directed by Sebastian Lelio, we get to be a part of a powerful journey one such trans woman, Marina, as she learns to hold her head up against a society that sees her existence as a matter of shame.
After her long-time partner, Orlando dies of an aneurysm Marina finds herself bound by the shackles of redundant mindsets. It’s almost as if Orlando by being a man had been her unsaid shield from the society and with him no longer around, she is again stripped of her identity, her individuality.
Minutes after Orlando’s death, walls around Marina seems to be closing in. The police refuse to call her Marina, instead stick to the name seen on her identity cards, Daniel even after she insists on the former thus trivialising her choice to choose her gender.
She is looked at through the lens of suspicion, denied the right to attend his funeral and thrown out of the house. It looks like what Orlando’s family couldn’t do when he was alive, they do it after his death; kick Marina out of his life.
One by one, Orlando’s family attempts to snatch way every essence of him from Marina’s life, from their belongings to their dog. Orlando’s ex-wife calls her “chimera’ and his son brutally beats up Marina for no reason except for her gender identity which seems to offend his masculinity. The constant treatment as a shame everyone is trying to hide leaves her marinating in silent rage.
The immediacy of the humiliation doesn’t leave her with time to mourn the death of a man she loved, to let that sink in, to feel the loss, to heal. Instead, she is thrown into the midst of stereotypical, redundant chaos.
The film which won the Best Foreign Language Picture at Oscars this year is about love, loss, and identity. To not forget yourself in a world that loves dictating who you are and who you should be.
It’s a powerful fight of grieving woman to take back from the society what it forcefully took from her. In the midst of sudden waves of grief and splashes of surrealism, we witness the emergence of a woman who is no longer afraid of her own shadow, who emerges out of the quagmire of low self-esteem created by the world and learns to set herself free and celebrate her identity.
This is a movie that will inspire you by breaking your heart, teach you a thing or two about being true to yourself and understand the importance of acceptance. This movie is a must-watch to understand the struggles of trans people in a jarringly intimate manner.
Aisiri Amin is a journalist specialising in social justice, gender issues and culture. She has written for The Hindu and works as a freelance writer. Social wallflower and an idealist at the core, she lives on books, tea and hope (in that particular order).