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Our Bodies Are Your Battlegrounds

An immersive feature documentary about a trans collective in Argentina

About the project

Isabelle Solas's documentary feature film Our Bodies Are Your Battlegrounds will take you into the heart of a trans collective in Buenos Aires fighting to demand another world order.

Claudia, Violeta and their comrades say that they are transvestites, preferring this term with its dissidence and vagueness to that of transgender. They live in Argentina, the first country in the world to make a legal distinction between gender and biological sex: The Gender Identity Law enacted in 2012 allows everyone to choose their gender on their identity papers, regardless of their biological sex.

Despite this revolutionary law, Argentine society remains very conservative and the disobedient bodies of trans people are continually sacrificed to patriarchal violence. The community suffers from persistent discrimination. It lives under a permanent threat and its death toll is forever going up.  

Throughout the film, as they affirm their presence in spaces that turn their back on them, the characters in the film propose alternative pathways to those of the norm. Other modes of corporality, other ways of living a love story, other ways of thinking about collective action. The idea is to spend time in their company, to question with them, the difference between the sexes as the origin of our societies, to question a certain world order, that of the penetrating and the penetrated, the dominant and the dominated.

Through this grieving community and these individual's struggles, the film draws the portrait of a collective that never gives up. Forced to live in the present while fighting passionately for the future, it creates new modes of resistance. Nourished by the very singular way in which it creates links between intimate desire and politics, it constantly redraws our way of interacting with everyone.

The film ricochets between the parallel and complementary journeys of two trans women, Violeta and Claudia, who have gradually become leading figures of the trans and transvestite community.

Violeta is 38 years old. She still lives in the house she grew up in, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

From her adolescence, she began to flourish as a transvestite, without suffering from any rejection by her family. A brilliant student in anthropology, she then embraced activism.

She believes that the political starts with the intimate. She is now a teacher at the university and also works in a state welfare office.

Violeta writes, teaches, and speaks at conferences, placing herself in the world, to live and to love as she is. A world that she gently destabilizes by the impact of her thought and her freedom.

Claudia is 43, she lives in La Plata, an hour from Buenos Aires. She left her native Peru at twenty to study journalism in Argentina.

Founder of the Otrans Association, Claudia assists street girls, who prostitute themselves, and die under the blows of their lovers or the police. She is a professor of communication, whilst being an activist in the Peronist party of Cristina Kirchner, the former president who passed the Gender Identity Law. Claudia throws herself into public life, carried by a rage combined with enthusiasm. She is a triumphant woman who speeds through life at a hundred miles an hour. She increasingly participates in international events. Whilst tirelessly continuing to protect her "compañeras", she is on the cusp of becoming an influential political woman. A few months ago, a man came to her house to try to kill her.

Whilst Violeta is afraid of death, Claudia thinks fear is for the weak. Their characters are very different, but they converge in a common desire to transform the world.

Violeta and Claudia will introduce us to other characters, with whom they maintain quasi-filial relationships. We will discover a whole group, trans prostitutes with indigenous faces, theorists who inspire European philosophers, and artists. All are involved in a movement that combines survival with challenging the norm.

The Director has been thinking about this documentary since 2013, the year

when the debate around the Marriage For All severely divided France. Isabelle Solas discovered that on the other side of the world a country had already passed a much more 'avant-garde' law.

Her feminist concerns overlap with those of the trans and transvestite communities, who are engaged in the same battle against male domination. An idea to combine cinema and political engagement was confirmed.

In 2015, during a first recce in Buenos Aires, Isabelle met Lohana Berkins. A militant of the Communist Party, a former prostitute, turned writer, she was claimed by all the trans and transvestite communities of Argentina. The tragic and untimely death of Lohana some months later rendered ​​the making of the film an urgent necessity.

Argentina is a huge country with very varied regional realities. Isolated within its continent, Argentina has constructed its own unique identity. It has been regularly adopted by people in flight, needing to hide and reinvent themselves. The dictatorship of Videla (1976-1983) reshuffled populations: to erase history, the children of the disappeared were given to military families, creating false filiations. This military dictatorship, which was financed by the United States, followed by the the ultraliberalism of the 90s, drove the country into the disastrous economic crisis of 2001. During the period that followed this crisis, a militant network developed to battle for the rights of sexual minorities.

Nestor Kirchner, in power after the crisis, oversaw the country's recovery but also made advances in the field of human rights. His wife Cristina took over in 2007 and in the same vein, she adopted strong measures. Marriage and adoption are allowed for people of the same sex in 2010. The most symbolic measure is the "Ley de Identitad de Genero", The Gender Identity Law passed in 2012. It allows anyone to choose their gender, regardless of any biological determinism. In concrete terms, every individual can choose the kind of identity they want on their identity papers. No justification is required, no one asks whether there is adequacy between sexual organs and gender declared on the papers. The law also provides access to the reimbursement of operations and hormonal treatments for people who are transitioning and provides for a positive discrimination measure for trans people, so that they have access to jobs in public institutions.

With the arrival of rightwing Mauricio Macri in November 2015, all these social gains are at risk. In 2015, a trans collective is set up following the death of Lohana Berkins and the assassination of another founding trans figure, Diana Sacayan.

The Argentinian context is currently experiencing alarming echoes in many parts of the world. In the US, Trump plans to legally circumscribe individuals' identities to their biological sex at birth. In Brazil, Bolsonaro attacks the LGBT community very openly and with great violence. In France, when Vanessa Campos, a Peruvian trans prostitute, was savagely murdered this summer by a commando of three men in the Bois de Boulogne, it was barely mentioned in the press.

After a period of hope, the rights and lives of LGBT people are threatened around the world.

The film is an 80 minutes documentary feature, filmed as close as possible to its characters, conceived with a cinematic vision; the narration will not necessarily be linear but will be captivating. Great attention will be paid to the image and the sound. Despite the seriousness of the subject, the film will reflect its characters, anxious but combative, full of humour and hope.

Isabelle Solas and her producer, David Hurst of Dublin Films plan to release the film in cinemas, in France and internationally. Today you have the possibility to make this project a reality.

What are the funds for?

By participating in the crowdfunding campaign of Our Bodies Are Your Battlegrounds, you are giving Isabelle Solas's film a decisive chance to see the light of day. After the preliminary research filming in March 2018, and a first rough edit of some sequences, there is an urgent need to return to Argentina to begin shooting the film itself. It is after this first shoot that we will be able to present an edit of about forty minutes to new financiers, and to convince a film distributor to come on board. The commitment of a distributor will then enable us to solicit other sources of funding to complete the filming and post-production. So far the development of the film has taken more than three years, with three scouting sessions in Argentina and many trips to development workshops (at San Sebastian and Lussas festivals in particular). This development was made possible by the support in France of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, Procirep and Angoa, and a consequent investment by Dublin Films. Today, we must gather a total of nearly 100,000 euros, for two phases of filming (March and September 2019), for four to five months of post-production (processing rushes and archives, editing image, sound editing, grading, mixing, creation of broadcast formats) and for the promotion of the film worldwide.

As the financing context of independent cinema is very limited, only a successful crowdfunding campaign will enable us to start shooting, and therefore secure the following steps of the film. Dublin Films has decided to launch its first ever crowdfunding campaign because Isabelle Solas' project is extremely important to us.

Your support on Ulule is about 20% of the budget needed to complete the film. With your support, we will be able to send a film crew to Argentina next March. Costs include:

• Air tickets for 3 people (director, assistant, sound engineer)

• Accommodation for 3 people for one month

• Food

• On-site transportation

• Camera rental

• Rental of sound equipment

• Hard drives for storing images and small equipment

Apart from the salaries of the assistant and the sound engineer, no remuneration is provided for the director or the producer with the money collected by the campaign.

 

To ensure the completion of this film, we will have to do another session of filming in Argentina and then start the post-production, as mentioned above.  With extra funding:

• +200% of the goal: we can do a second shoot in Argentina

• +300% of the goal: we can start on the post-production (edit)

The proposed rewards depend on the success of the campaign and the overall financing of the film. They will be delivered when the film will be released in cinemas. By participating in our campaign, you will be informed of the progress of its production through the Ulule News, and for those who contribute 100 € + you will have access to a digital photobook of the shoot of Our Bodies Are Your Battlegrounds.

About the project owner

Isabelle Solas is a director and camera operator. Following studies in anthropology and oriental languages, she attended the Ecole du Doc de Lussas in 2005, where she met different players from this "documentary village". She made her first film, Inventaire, alongside Magali Chirouze, from Adalios production also located in Lussas.

Her next three films are also intimate pieces: In a Time Suspended in 2012, No Nostalgia Comrades in 2015 produced by Sister Productions and Being 15 On Set, in 2015 co-directed with Galès Moncomble, and produced by Z'azimut Films, which is tinged with more political concerns.

As DOP she accompanies directors Anna Feillou, Sonia Gonzalez and Colas Devauchelle making their documentaries. With Bûto dancer Anne Laure Lamarque, she directed and filmed the dance video Deviation, and music videos include, 4 for composer Florent Ghysand, Novo & Chanterelles for the group Chocolat Billy.

In parallel to documentary filmmaking, she works across street art and live performance. She set up a multi-camera live-action camera on a live green background for Kkrocké, a show by the Totoblack company from Nantes. She also participated in the Analog#8 concert cinema project, built around amateur films found in the street, or rescued from the skip.

The desire to film the body as a land of political invention has become central to her work in recent years.

Founded in Paris in 2006 before moving to Bordeaux, Dublin Films produces fiction films and creative documentaries for television and cinema. We accompany projects that defend the singular point of view of their authors. All our films are committed to cultural, societal and political reflections, and more particularly to issues of diversity and identity.

Our current slate of documentaries is supported by both local and national television funding. In 2016 we completed The Orphans' Kaddish, a doc of 52 min broadcasted on France 3; the film won an “Étoile de la SCAM” the following year.

We began our transition to features by coproducing films by international director's, including Abel Ferrara's Pasolini (Venice 2014 - Official Competition), Yared Zeleke's Lamb (Cannes 2015 - Un Certain Regard) and Gaya Jiji’s My Favorite Fabric (Cannes 2018 - Un Certain Regard). We are currently producing several feature films, fiction and documentaries, including a documentary shot in Cuba and a fiction in Colombia.

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