Orlando, My Political Biography (2023) (Orlando, Ma Biographie Politique)

Orlando, My Political Biography by trans activist Paul B Preciado is a moving documentary inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel.

Who's Afraid?

by Alexa Dalby

Orlando, My Political Biography

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Just because something is heartfelt and revealing doesn’t mean it can’t also be poetic and allusive.

Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography had a profound effect on director and trans activist Paul B Preciado when he first read it as a teenager in Spain.

In Woolf’s Orlando, the central character changes sex over a period of 300 years. Preciado felt it spoke to him and could have been his own biography as a gender transitioner. It opened his mind to myriad possibilities and he decided to send a film letter to Virginia Woolf about her Orlando.

Multiple identities determine the vision of his film. Orlando is played by 27 trans people of varying ages, all of whom say they are Orlando and wear his Elizabethan ruff. It’s reminiscent of the many actors – male and female – who played Bob Dylan to different effect in I’m Not There.

Preciado shows society’s insidious humiliation of trans individuals but also their triumphs. What most in the film insist on, and what Preciado is doing in his award-winning documentary, is describing a new sex that glories in being neither male nor female, but trans and non-binary.

Trans lives are interspersed with readings from Woolf’s book and by a haunting and very personal voiceover by Preciado himself.

It’s memorable, artistic, imaginative and compulsive viewing.

“Bold, confident and, ultimately, exhilarating” – Los Angeles Times

“Essential … often funny, intellectually provocative, and finally deeply moving” – New York Times

Orlando, My Political Biography premiered at the 2023 Berlinale, where it won the Teddy Award: Best Documentary, the Special Jury Award – Encounters, the Tagesspiegel Reader’s Jury Prize and the Special Mention: Best Documentary Award. It is released on 5 July 2024 in the UK.

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