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CULTURE | 23-05-2024 14:37

Director Daniel Burman tackles tradition and gender identity with ‘Transmitzvah’

Argentine director Daniel Burman debuts ‘Transmitzvah’ at Cannes film festival. While trans identity needs to be included in cinema, it must not be the be-all and end-all, he explains.

After spending much of his career focused on television, Argentine director Daniel Burman is returning to cinema with Transmitzvah, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this week.

The film, Burman’s return to the big screen after 2016’s El rey del Once, sees the experienced director tackling themes of tradition, gender identity and roots.

The feature, which premiered at a public screening out of competition, follows a Jewish boy who wants to be a girl and did not want to have the religious initiation ceremony for boys known as a bar mitzvah. 

Its world premiere took place within the ‘Cinéma de la Plage’ programme, a special run of programming at the prestigious French film festival that sees films projected onto a giant screen installed on the beach with free access for the public.

Mumy Singer, played by the Spanish trans actress Penélope Guerrero (Vestidas de azul), decides to return to her native Buenos Aires to remember her childhood. A famous transsexual singer, she confronts her family and the Jewish tradition of which they are a part.

The film, Burman says, questions "many things that have to do with our identity" in a general way.

In his opinion, the protagonist, "a woman who transitioned," does not have any problem with her gender identity, but rather has a conflict with her own, more global identity.

"The real transition that the film talks about is not from boy to girl, from man to woman, from woman to man, but from childhood to adulthood," he says. "It is a transition that we never finish, but that is common to all mortals."

Burman said trans identity needs to be included in cinema but not as a be-all and end-all.

"We should render these situations visible but not lock ourselves in them," he said. 

​"There is excessive focus on gender identity as the only pillar of identity” and sometimes even a “reductionism" towards this type of issue, when in reality people have many facets.

As soon as trans people or other minorities are pigeonholed into a single criterion, "it is like 'condemning' those who are part of groups to tell only the stories that make them belong to that group," Burman insists. 

"This is something totally conservative and causes prejudice to be repeated again," he added.

Actress Penélope Guerrero agrees that the film goes far beyond the trans theme, and that it focuses above all on a person who has his insecurities and that circumstances "make him rethink whether he is in the right place."

"It's not so much about identity, but about the human being himself," said the star.

When constructing the film, Burman asked his lead character to participate in script completion issues so that it was more adjusted to reality.

The director wanted to take great care of this aspect precisely to avoid "repeating commonplaces and political correctness, and encapsulating" gender issues again.

Burman also composed a couple of the film's musical numbers, which include several dance scenes and Yiddish songs.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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