Saturday, January 2, 2016

LGBT Film Review: Mala Mala


Nine members of Puerto Rico's transgender community share their stories and insights into the island's diverse trans culture.

My Review:

Not too many films explore Puerto Rico's trans community. Mala Mala may not be the first, but it's the one of few, showcasing the perspective of nine individuals, and they are Jason Carrión (who many know as April Carrion from S6 of RuPaul's Drag Race), Samantha Close, Ivana Fred, Queen Bee Ho, Paxx Moll, Alberic Prados, Denise 'Sandy' Rivera, Soraya Santiango Solla, and Sophia Voines. It's through them and their unique voices and stories that we get a glimpse of what it's like being trans (FtM, MtF, and genderless/agender) in Puerto Rico. Obviously, not even 9 stories can represent that of EVERY trans person in Puerto Rico, but the film does a great job at letting them give us a slice of their lives, some that are more troubled than others, but for the most part, there's optimism and hope behind the struggles. This documentary is beautifully shot, the music is gorgeous, and every person's personality here shines. The structure is pretty loose, which gives the documentary its spontaneity, but then at times it feels like it would have been better if it was more focused. And I also couldn't help but feel that the documentary didn't really quite explore the Puerto Rican trans community more in depth. There was too much focus on the surface, a little too much emphasis on physical beauty/"passing" than at the heart of being trans, which goes deeper than physical appearances and clothes. Despite some of those shortcomings, it's well made up for with its stellar cast of truly wonderful individuals and for also including the first historic victory of its kind, the approval and signing of Law 238-2014, which prevents discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. With that spirit, this documentary doesn't aim to be perfect, but commanding, which it certainly is from start to finish. Mala Mala is electrifying, honest, and beautiful in affirming that quest of what being trans is all about: being yourself.

** This is currently on Netflix **

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