“Placing social value on concepts like authenticity is an invitation to manufacture them.” — Louis Menand*
The initial controversy over Lukas Dhont’s acclaimed debut feature GIRL—the story of a young, transgender ballet dancer in Belgium—focused on the casting of a then-14-year-old cisgender actor (Victor Polster, as Lara) in a transgender lead role.
Nora Monsecour—the woman Lara is based on—worked closely with the director and has enthusiastically endorsed Polster’s performance:
“In one of our first conversations, I said to Lukas that I didn’t care at all if the actor was male, female, transgender, lesbian, gay. For me, it was very important that Lara… be played by someone who had a lot of love and empathy for the character, [and] was also a very good dancer. When I saw pictures of Victor, I thought to myself, ‘this is it, he is it.’ ”
Since the film’s release in Europe, some but not all critics in the transgender community have gone further, dismissing the film as dangerous “trauma porn” and worse.
The film was a triumph this year at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, winning a Caméra d’Or for Dhont and best actor for Polster. The great Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed the dances for the film.
This week the American Cinematheque presents GIRL as part of its Golden Globe Foreign-Language Nominees series.
Tuesday, January 1, at 5 pm.
1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica.
GIRL streams on Netflix from January 18.
*Louis Menand, “Faking It,” The New Yorker, December 10, 2018, 69.
Victor Polster (3; foreground left in middle photo) in Girl. Image credit: Netflix.