FRINGE! DIARIES: BEING IMPOSSIBLE at Barbican (14 NOV 2019)
As well as volunteering at this year’s Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest (12 to 17 NOV), RADIANT CIRCUS managed to catch a number of film screenings. In the first of our special FRINGE! DIARIES we look at Patricia Ortega’s Venezuelan intersex drama, BEING IMPOSSIBLE (2018).
By RADIANT CIRCUS
Twitter @radiantcircus | Instagram @radiantcircus
Whilst Fringe! might have their regular flings, for RADIANT CIRCUS, it’s becoming an intense love affair. As a volunteer veteran of two festival bars (extra love to bat-winged Head Of Lubrication, Gia) and fresh from our recent collaboration on LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY, it’s always a joy working with one of London’s most dynamically diverse film festivals.
This year RADIANT CIRCUS managed to see four film screenings: BEING IMPOSSIBLE, sex shorts (Deep) Into You, a series of shorts programmed by young people’s Project Indigo, Fish Out Of Water, and horror movie documentary, SCREAM, QUEEN! We’ll try to catch up with each of those in a special Fringe! diary post in coming days.
First up – intersex drama, BEING IMPOSSIBLE.
BEING IMPOSSIBLE aka Yo, Imposible d. Patricia Ortega, Venezuela/2018
BEING IMPOSSIBLE is a challenging story about the exposure of enforced operations on children born with intersex variations in Venezuela.
The film follows suitably named Ariel (Lucía Bedoya) as she starts to understand why penetrative vaginal sex with her boyfriend Carlos (Santiago Osuna) is so difficult. Deathbed revelations from her mother (María Elena Duque) about a childhood intersex diagnosis, ensuing conspiracies of silence and the aftermath of “corrective” surgeries result in a haunting series of painful and pointless treatments. Eventually, with the help of a romance with co-worker Ana (Belkis Avilladares), Ariel discovers something of her true self beyond the rigid gender roles constructed for her.
These are vital narratives but BEING IMPOSSIBLE is a bit too beautifully bleak for its own good and it’s not entirely surprising that the ensuing panel discussion took the film as a departure point. Partly this is due to activist/host Valentino Vecchietti’s desire to keep audience’s eyes on ongoing injustices in the UK and not those of a foreign land. But it’s also likely that the series of painful encounters Ariel endures forces us to look away too often. Whilst there’s absolutely nothing exploitative about Ortega’s handling of these challenging issues, her film’s focus on the medicalisation of Ariel’s condition combined with the multiple impacts of her dying mother and rampant workplace homophobia, makes direct eye contact difficult to sustain.
It’s a shame, because the film has lots to share about the lives of people born with intersex variations and the consequences of being born different (which too often involves not being allowed to remain different, and having any choice about organs and identities denied as adults make premature decisions about which path a child’s life should follow). The injustices of this are most clearly articulated in BEING IMPOSSIBLE by the lives of real people born with intersex variations we see giving testimonies to video camera, a support group of sorts – if the grey concrete setting wasn’t so bleak! – that eventually provides a place for our fictional protagonist to tell her own story.
The testimonies at the core of BEING IMPOSSIBLE continued in the panel discussion afterwards where chair, intersex activist and main contributor Vecchietti gave further insight into the still prevalent problem of enforced surgeries. These remain a core focus of campaigns by and on behalf of people born with intersex variations in the UK and elsewhere, for which suitable activist vehicles are still being assembled. Prominent organisations like Stonewall do not currently include intersex variations in their remits, prompting Vecchietti’s proud reveal of a hilariously hacked t-shirt slogan:
“SOME PEOPLE ARE intersex LESBIANS. GET OVER IT!”
The panel of creative producers reviewed how intersex stories are still under-explored by cultural productions beyond a smattering of documentaries. Like many similar social campaigns, the rising tide of You Tube activism provides one of the few accessible places for the vocalisation of difference and the fostering of community. If the ever-expanding acronym LGBTQIA+ can seem awkward on the tongue, Fringe! reminded us all again that alliances in the face of hostility and indifference remain vitally important.
The panel included contributions from artist/filmmaker Timothy Smith, independent arts producer & co-founder/executive producer of The Queer House, Charlotte Boden and writer/actor Elijah W Harris.
And that’s the meat of it…
Read our next writeup about Fringe!’s sex-, queer- and body positive short film programme, (DEEP) INTO YOU.
Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest
“Since 2011, Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest has been an entirely volunteer-run organisation rooted in London’s queer creative scene. In Novembers, and throughout the year, we showcase an eclectic mix of films, arts and events celebrating LGBTIQA+ stories from around the world, welcoming everybody.”
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