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Arts & Culture

XXY Screens as Part of Cinema En Tu Idioma

LUCIA PUENZO: Visually the title has three almost identical X's that corresponds to any human being in the world, and the last one has one of its legs mutilated in a way, it has one of its legs has been cut off, and I thought that was a very visual and powerful way to say a lot with almost no few words in a language that could be universally understood.

But the central character of Puenzo's film is not an XXY male. It's a teenager named Alex who was born with both male and female genitalia. Alex has been raised as a girl... but at fifteen, she's starting to question that identity. Ethan Van Thillo is director of the San Diego Latino Film Festival, which screened XXY last month.

ETHAN VAN THILLO: It's not just about gender, it's about the difficult time in a young person's life ... when you're going through puberty and the difficulties of a young person's life that's a universal theme.

But in Alex's case, it's complicated by the fact she's a intersex child. In the film, Alex meets sixteen-year-old & Aacute;lvaro. Alvaro is struggling with his own sexual orientation, and with his father's strong disapproval. In contrast, Alex's father is more tolerant of his daughter's confusion. Again, Lucia Puenzo.

LUCIA PUENZO: We have two very different ways of approaching parenthood and in believing and trusting, and believing in your son or daughter or like Alvaro has a father who has stopped believing in him, and who can be so cruel as to say that to him.

Still Alex's mother wants her to resolve her sexual ambiguity. The mother urges Alex to take hormone pills and have what's called "normalization surgery." That's something Alex doesn't want to do.

XXY screened earlier this year at the San Diego Latino Film Festival (Film Movement)

Puenzo says her film is about freedom of choice. For Alex, it's about whether or not tp choose surgery. For Alvaro, it's whether or not to come out to his parents. As the teens struggle with their decisions, they become attracted to each other. Puenzo says their connection makes it possible for them to recognize and accept themselves.


LUCIA PUENZO: So I think that what happens in the film for both Alvaro and Alex is that they find who they want to be because they find who makes them feel alive.

The fact that Alvaro finds Alex desirable in her ambiguity gives her the confidence to fight for what she wants.

LUCIA PUENZO: The absolute hero of the story was the courage with which Alex was fighting for nobody to touch her body until she knew what she wanted to do with her identity. I think she is so strong in the end. She has chosen who she wants to be, she has chosen what she wants to do with her future and with her body.

The film has received critical recognition and support in Puenzo's native Argentina. The country's among the most tolerant in South America when it comes to homosexuality and issues of sexual identity. Puenzo says XXY has also done well in Italy and Thailand where the transgender community came out to support the film and its exploration of a private issue that's starting to go public.

LUCIA PUENZO: This idea of how the world is divided normally bianary between men and women, and in this way there are only places for two sex and what would happen with a third sex that comes to demand their own place in the world?

Puenzo says after all, who decides there are only two ways to be human?

Companion viewing: The Crying Game, 20 Centimeters, 13 Genders