Review: Our Bodies Are Your Battlefields

Diana Sacayan’s documentary portrays the life of a transgender community in Argentina, a country beset with political, social and religious paradoxes

Thursday, 23rd June — By Dan Carrier

Our Bodies are our Battlefields

Directed by Isabelle Solas
Certificate: 12a

IN 2012, Diana Sacayan was handed a national identity card by the then Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Photos were taken, reports written – because she was the first trans person to have her identity officially changed on a government document in the South American country.

Argentina has long had a clash of conservative versus progressive, and sometimes those involved in undermining others’ rights have resorted to violence.

The beginning of this enlightening film has the camera focused on the deadpan face of a man standing in a dock. We hear a judge read out the crime he is accused of – the murder of Diana, three years after the LGBT activist was hailed as a human rights landmark. It kickstarts a story of the life of a transgender community in a country riddled with political, social and religious paradoxes.

Director Solas has enjoyed access to watchable characters who tell their stories of life as a transgender person.

We meet the irrepressible Claudia, who sees her mission to help build bridges between trans and feminist activists, finding common ground between two groups who while at first would seem to have the same aim – universal civil rights – but instead have opened up schisms between them over how trans people may undermine the battle for women’s equality.

Her speeches – watched admiringly by her mum – offer a commonsense argument as to why trans people and feminists need to remember their common enemy, a violent and oppressive patriarchy.

Perhaps the best moments on screen come with the study of academic anthropologist Violeta, who offers telling insights into not just the contemporary situation but also a wider philosophical idea of what a man and a woman are biologically, and what people are in terms of personal identity.

This film feels timely as debates on these issues get warped by whipped-up and divisive culture warriors, by the commentariat with personal axes to grind against other opinion voices, and the idea that promoting one set of people’s rights, it may undermine others.

Solas deals with these questions with sophistication and gentleness, and above all, has caught on camera a host of people who don’t pretend to have answers but are willing to explain how they feel and explore how they can make the world a better, and safer, place.

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