What will Trans Person be, in a nutshell?
Trans Person will be a feature-length narrative film based on the story of a Latvian transsexual who recalls his experiences living transgender in Latvia during the times when it was under Soviet occupation. It will be directed by Una Celma, an experienced Latvian director whose previous work has been displayed in various festivals throughout Europe, as well as the United States and produced by Latvian film production company Fenixfilm for release in early 2015. The cast will be comprised of Latvian actors and shot in their native language, but the final version of the film will be subtitled in English.
What's the story of Trans Person?
A small room. Olga/Oleg is on the large bed, which is shared with a family of guinea pigs, Hansel, Gretel and their “daughter”. These seem to be Olga/Olegs only friends, the only living beings for which her presence is important and also the only creatures to which Olga/Oleg can tell her life story. This is Olga/Olegs story as told to three guinea pigs. It is the story of a person who was different growing up in a society called the USSR and of the human possibilities to survive in a system where everyone different was alienated or destroyed. It is a story of a life that did not happen, about the feelings of a person who is different and, as she/he says, is a mistake of nature. It is also a film about endless loneliness in society in the past and also in the present. Society in Latvia has not changed, Soviet thinking is still alive and it does not tolerate those who are different. Maybe telling this story will help generate a modicum of understanding. The main character of the film is a transgender person, and the story is that of a woman living in a man’s body, and the story of the destruction of a person.
The story starts in 1948, when unknown parents leave a child with no name at an orphanage. The boy later finishes only five grades, moving from one school to another. The only people he gets to know are alcoholics from the park and odd people from a public sauna. They teach him about bootlegging and selling bootleg booze. After than, she/he is drafted into the Soviet army, where he undergoes political re-education. She/he starts working for a district heating enterprise, working underground with valves and pipes until Olga/Oleg decides to be what she is, with all the consequences. Does changing a hidden life for an open one change anything? Or maybe one’s life has already been destroyed by trying to be that what you are not and by not living your own life.
How will the film be made?
Structurally, the film is a story told by Olga/Oleg that starts in the present, with her telling it to three guinea pigs. The main events of his/her life are reconstructed using actors as well as archival materials, that fit in with the story of Olga/Oleg’s life, also using Olga/Oleg’s own narration. Thus Trans Person will combine documentary and narrative filmmaking to tell a unique and moving story about the past and present of Olga/Oleg.
The filming will take place between late 2013 and throughout 2014, with Trans Person scheduled to be finished in late 2014. The film will be directed and produced by Latvian film company Fenixfilm. Since public and private financing of film is practically non-existent in Latvia, we are looking for support from outside. We intend to work with a low budget, using digital video technologies.
So, why Trans Person and why now?
Gay and lesbian rights issues are just starting to be understood in Latvia, the other Baltic countries and much of post-Soviet and post-Communist Eastern Europe. In Latvia, at least, there has been less strident public opposition to such events as Pride marches than just a few years ago. The film Trans Person will look at the life of a Soviet and post-Soviet era transgender person, another, more complex form of sexual identity for which it was even more difficult to find expression under the totalitarian regime of the past and in the post-Soviet society that emerged after Latvia’s independence.
With the problems of persons who feel affection and sexual attraction to their own sex in the forefront, transgender people can be forgotten and confused with other categories of minority sexual orientation and identity. A transgender man may feel an attraction to men not as an expression of homosexuality, but because he as a biologically male individual feels a strong “real” identity as a woman with psychologically heterosexual needs.