The latest installment of Anthology Film Archive’s continuing series, “The Cinema of Gender Transgression,” curated by Angelo Madsen Minax and Joey Carducci, offers two genre films and two programs of short films by the transmasculine and non-binary filmmaker, Nazli Dinçel.
“Splice” (April 21 and 24 at 6:45, April 23 at 8:30)
Director/cowriter Vincenzo Natali’s slick 2009 thriller about genetic engineering has scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) experimenting with DNA splicing. On the verge of a medical breakthrough with two animal hybrids — which goes badly when one changes gender — they secretly splice human and animal DNA to create “Dren.” This new species has gills, wings, and a tail as well as cognitive skills. Things certainly get stranger — and even more unethical — as Dren ages. Elsa applies makeup, and gives Dren a dress and a doll. Meanwhile, Dren develops an attraction to Clive, especially when they dance together. Their “romance” culminates in an offbeat and wholly inappropriate sex scene. “Splice” depicts the perils of trying to play God while also addressing issues of gender and bioethics. It’s perhaps a bit too much, but the creature effects are well rendered and Brody and Polley are diverting as the scientists.
“Border” (April 21 and 24 at 9:15, April 23 at 5:45)
“Border” is director/cowriter Ali Abbasi’s remarkable, Oscar-nominated 2018 feature about Tina (Eva Melander), a customs officer who can smell people’s feelings. Tina’s unique skill helps identify a child pornographer — and she becomes involved in an investigation of that ring — but it also introduces her to Vore (Eero Milonoff), who resembles Tina’s strange troll-like appearance. According to the male customs officer who searches him, Vore is intersex.
Tina and Vore bond further when they both share scars they received being struck by lightning, and on their tailbones. He flirts by asking her, “Do you like insects?”, and later feeds her maggots. When Tina and Vore get physical, their animalistic sex involves protruding genitalia.
“Border” is a clever spin on intersex or trans identity. Tina has long been bullied for feeing flawed, different, and “like a freak.” She also can’t have children. However, she becomes empowered after meeting Vore. “Our way of life is not easy, but it can be very beautiful,” he tells her in one of the film’s more romantic moments.
But there is something sinister at play. Vore insists that he and Tina are non-human, and it is her efforts to adapt to the human world (e.g, conventional society) that troubles him. “Humans are afraid of us,” he says, adding, “They should be. Vengeance is coming.”
How “Border” plays out is both weird and wonderful, with Tina ultimately learning the truth about her life and reclaiming her real name and burying her deadname. This is an exciting, inspiring, and fascinating queer thriller.
The short experimental films by Nazli Dinçel, entitled “Disrupted by the Hand,” explore issues of gender and power.
There are five shorts from Program 1 (April 22 at 3:45 pm), including “Untitled,” which mainly features Naz working in a cinema and monitoring the projection of a film by two of their male colleagues. Despite their efforts to make suggestions and improvements, they are more often than not ignored, indicating the power of the patriarchy.
“Between Relating and Use” features a voiceover narrative about the subject and the object with a theme of exploitation. Text is seen on screen describing the subject/object relationship (e.g, fetishization in some cases) as sexually suggestive images — from a hand caressing the leaves of a plant, to some more explicitly erotic imagery — appear on screen. There are also some wondrous shots of an upside-down mouth reflecting an image and the texture of light on water that demonstrate the fragile nature of the relationship.
“Instructions on How to Make a Film” include a “step-by-step” guide to the topic—get a camera and some film, a cast and crew and a location. Meanwhile, various other anecdotes are recounted through word, song, and image. The most striking sequence may be a man receiving oral sex while Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” is played on the soundtrack as Dinçel narrates a theory about artifacts and performances. Another vignette involves a hermaphrodite. The visuals are all shot on a farm, adding another layer of meaning to this short.
Program 2 (April 22 at 6:30 pm) which includes three of Dinçel’s “Solitary Acts” shorts (Number 4, 5, and 6), which feature “masturbatory impulses,” were not available for preview.
Dinçel will be in attendance for post-screening discussions.
For more information, visit: http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/film_screenings/series/56021
“The Cinema of Gender Transgression: Trans Film” | April 21-24 at Anthology Film Archives