Lucia Puenzo on XXY, Parenting and Sexuality – Beth Accomando interviews

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Much of Argentinian director Lucia Puenzo’s film work focuses on children and adolescence. In her 2007 narrative feature, XXY, the theme includes consideration of how parenting can ease or complicate a child’s challenging transformation during adolescence.

In 2008, when XXY received its U.S. release, Puenzo spoke about her gender-centered film beginning with her intention in choosing its short and visually memorable gender-related title. She actually it chose for its visual impact.

“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 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,” Puenzo said.

Issues about the impact of parenting — parental responsibility and the possibility of parental repression — are central to the story. Both teenagers, Alex and Álvaro, who are leading characters, are struggling with questions about their sexual identity, and their parents reflect very different attitudes towards their children’s sexual identity issues.

“We have two very different ways of approaching parenthood and in believing and trusting in your son or daughter,” Puenzo said. “Alvaro is terrified of his father. Alvaro has a father who has stopped believing in him, and who can be so cruel as to say that to him.”

Because the adults fall short, the teen end up helping each other in unexpected ways.

“It is a film about desire, about the place of desire in people’s life, and about when anybody connects with that, they will feel alive. 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, and in a way, they will start finding who they want to be. It was something that many intersex friends kept telling me that they liked on the film, was the idea of that this body that is Alex, this person that is Alex is not only asking for the chance to keep the body with which she came into the world, and to be accepted and have any person be able to fall in love with her, which is a bit more than only respecting her,” Puenzo said.

Through that relationship, Alex gains the courage to stand up for herself.

“The absolute hero of the story is 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,” Puenzo said. “She has chosen who she wants to be, she has chosen what she wants to do with her future and with her body, and then she has the rest of her life to fight for it.”

Ultimately Puenzo said her film poses a challenge and aquestion: “This idea of how the world has been divided as binary between men and women, and in this way there are only places for two sexes but what would happen with a third sex that comes to demand their own place in the world?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lucia Puenzo’s XXY is an AWFJ Presents on Film Movement Plus featured film. Watch now.

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Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando is host of KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast and author of the blog Cinema Junkie. She also programs film series and events as part of Film Geeks SD at venues such as Museum of Photographic Arts and Digital Gym Cinema. She loves horror, zombies, kaiju and film noir.