Queer stories have a way of striking a personal chord even when they’re not explicitly autobiographical. In Ian Garrido’s short film Victor XX, the lead character is slowly exploring hir sexuality. As ze confesses to hir girlfriend at one point in the film, ze doesn’t feel like a girl but doesn’t quite know if ze’s a boy. As the gender neutral pronouns should alert you, this Almeira-set Spanish project is fascinated with gender play.
Garrido, who began writing Victor XX at the beginning of their own transition, wanted to show this ambiguity because, in their words “man and woman labels, are constructions that we can deconstruct at any time.” Thus, when you see Mari (who presents hirself as “Victor” when ze heads into a town far from his seaside town with a drawn-in mustache to pass as a boy) standing in front of a mirror with lipstick on while playing with hir breasts all the while stuffing her underwear, you know that Garrido is consciously looking to challenge our own gendered vision of the world. “In the end, what does it mean to be one man or woman? I wanted to throw that question in the air, and that everyone would find their own conclusions.”
Given the sun-dappled setting as well as the complex conversation that Garrido sets up in the 20-minute short, it’s no surprise that ze cites the films of Andrea Arnold, Xavier Dolan, Celine Sciamma and Italian neorealists as inspiration. During a dinner table conversation between Mari (played with beautiful empathy by actress Alba Martinez) and her mother, for example, Garrido stages a heated discussion not only about gender and sexuality but about prejudice.
“I don’t care about that. It doesn’t interest me,” Mari’s mother says, referring to the close friendship ze has with hir Moroccan girlfriend Rahma. What she does care about is other people talking it, especially given the girl’s ethnic background. And while Mari is all too happy to dismiss what other people say, hir mother reminds hir that, after all, “we’re surrounded by other people.” Sometimes, it’s not enough just to ignore the community — it explains why Mari takes a bus to a nearby town to try on hir new male-identified identity, even if that escape is short-lived.
The short, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation and at AFI Fest last year, is but a teaser for bigger things to come for Garrido and Martinez. Victor XX, ze noted when talking to Remezcla, is a preamble of sorts for a TV series ze’s working on with some of the university colleagues with whom ze produced the short film. Inspired by Jill Soloway’s Transparent, ze’s currently working on Queer, a series that would include Victor/Mari as a main character, one emboldened by the events that tie up hir narrative in the short. As LGBT stories from all around the world continue to push boundaries and aim for more representation, Victor XX shows us a community-driven project that makes great use of local talent and localized storytelling that resonates with audiences worldwide.
Victor XX screened as part of Urbanworld which runs Sept 21-25, 2016.