BFI Flare 2015: Mala Mala

London LGBT Film Festival 2015

"The nine trans people living in Puerto Rico profiled in this inspiring documentary are a captivating, diverse group. All are treated equally – with great music and absolutely gorgeous cinematography, but without judgement. Paxx, the only trans man in the film, wants to get away from Puerto Rico. As for the women, some dream of being superstar drag queens, others would like a regular job and to just fit in. Either way, they have always looked after their own. Now the trans community is becoming increasingly politicised, fighting employment discrimination and organising a march for equality. 'Mala Mala' is an exuberant celebration of gender expression despite adversity." BFI Flare

"Despite its themes of acceptance within a diverse community, Mala Mala has been notably ignored by many LGBT film festivals around the globe," Indiewire said back in September last year. "Why can't this documentary about transgender Puerto Ricans find a home?" This year, it did, in London.

The answer to Indiewire's question must lie in Mala Mala's content. Is it a harder sell? Sure. Poor pathetic trannies and their hardships? Worthy, but I didn't want to see it. The film was chosen by my good friend Rogue "Marbie" Scott, who last year recorded a series of insightful interviews with a trans man for his YouTube channel. Prior to the screening I remarked - faggot that I am - "At least there'll be some hot Puerto Rican trade in the background" - as if that's all that mattered. Marbie was right, and I was very, very wrong: Mala Mala is - so far - the best thing at this year's BFI Flare.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Mala Mala looks and sounds (soundtrack, guys?) fantastic. Filmmakers Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles understand that audiences must also be engaged and entertained on their journey (something Selena Blake seemingly forgot with her turgid 2013 doc Taboo Yardies).

Santini and Sickles have created something very special, a film not about transgender headlines, transgender statistics, or worse, transgender controversies, but about transgender people and their stories. This is a film about life, and as Shelley Winters says in The Poseidon Adventure, "life always matters very much, doesn't it?"

Next: We Came To Sweat.

Read last year's reviews.


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