Home #Hwoodtimes SEDIMENTS: Unpacking Layers of Trans Experience

SEDIMENTS: Unpacking Layers of Trans Experience

By Jim Gilles

Yolanda Terol in Sediments

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/14/21 – Screening on Saturday, August 14, is an interesting film Sediments (Spain, 2021), from Valencian-born Adrián Silvestre about six transsexual women on a road trip from Barcelona to a small village in Leon, Spain. This is Silvestre’s second feature and a follow-up to his 2016 The Objects of Love, in which he continues to explore love, identity, collectivity, and individuality. We travel with six Spanish trans women to the village where the family of one of them, Magdalena, grew up with her family. The six trans women spend the weekend exploring natural settings and interacting with the locals. The film takes its name from their visit to a rock quarry where we share their differing views of this site which has left exposed the many layers of sedimentary rock – and provides the dominant metaphor of the film. Like the Earth, our interior is formed by different strata, which forge our identity and tell our life story. What circumstances intervene in this process and make us become who we are today?

Cristina Millán and Tina Recio in the cave

One might say this film is an unusual kind of documentary where the actors play themselves and the camera rolls. Amid the different landscapes, these six trans women explore the ins and outs of their own stratified personalities. The two oldest, Cristina Millán and Yolanda Terol, have had very different lives – Cristina being a loner and preferring being with animals over humans, Yolanda having been a prostitute and working the streets in her younger days. Tina Recio is lively and self-confident, whereas Saya Solana once aspired to be an artist. The youngest are Alicia De Benito and Magdalena Brasas, both with an avid interest in science from their days at the university. It is Magdalena who invited the others to accompany her on this trip to Leon and her family village where they meet her accepting family.

Cristina Millán and Saya Solana

In 1983, Antonio Giménez-Rico, normally a more mainstream director, took film buffs by surprise with a documentary that was a far cry from his filmography thus far: it was called Dressed in Blue and brought together six transsexuals in the Palacio de Cristal (lit. “Glass Palace”) in Madrid’s El Retiro park, where they discussed their lives, some of which were horrific and sordid, because at that time in Spain, many had to resign themselves to working as prostitutes in order to make a living. That film flung open a window to an unknown universe that didn’t yet even have an appropriate terminology assigned to it, as even in the mass media, they would be confused with drag queens or transvestites. NOTE: Dressed in Blue is also screening at Outfest 2021 on Thursday, August 19, and highly recommended.

Five trans women watching Magdalena dance

Almost 40 years later, Valencian-born Adrián Silvestre has also gathered six transsexual women in his Sediments but fortunately, society has moved on towards accepting the group, even though there is still a long way to go until we achieve complete normalization (in short, the transsexual law has still not been passed in Spain). Once there, Yolanda Terol, Lena Brasas, Tina Recio, Saya Solana, Cristina Millán and Alicia Benito encounter a warm, welcoming place, where they get a “normal” reception from the locals. They will go on outings (the one to a quarry explains the documentary’s title) while simultaneously unpacking – in different dialogue-driven scenes – the things that concern them, their experiences so far and their hopes for the future. With a certain cheekiness and touches of humor, and without them ever being victimized, Sediments portrays the daily lives of six people (whose personalities sometimes even clash quite violently) who are only trying to be themselves, with no strings attached, free from clichés.

Cristina Millán walking in the quarry

Sediments is a vehicle for delving deeper into the reality of people who have been bravely going against the grain to lead the lives they want to lead, fighting against mindsets and social prejudice: they belong to three different generations and to different social classes, and while their past may not always have been easy, they are united by a sense of camaraderie which is able to prevail over any conflict that may bubble up to the surface during these days spent living side by side.

Adrían Silvestre, director of Sediments

In an interview, director Adrián Silvestre explained the origin of this particular film: ”In 2016, I talked to Tina Recio, one of the protagonists, in order to make a film about the trans community, and she introduced me to the I-Vaginarium association. Once I had met them, I put forward my idea. ‘Exactly how I do it will depend on you,’ I told them. We thus created a group, and each person outlined their conditions and red lines, as some of them didn’t want to appear on camera.” After running a series of community workshops on film language and acting, Silvestre ended up with six who agreed to make the film: “They don’t agree on anything at all, they are not alike in the slightest, and they all have interesting things to say. Plus, we reached a point where the camera wasn’t too overbearing for them.”

Tina Rocio with Magdalena Brasas

Silvestre found it astonishing how tolerant people in Spain are in rural areas. Most trans films take place in big cities. “Human beings are afraid of the unknown, and that’s where prejudice comes from, no matter the country or the period of history. With the closeness that you get in small towns, people know each other very well, while in cities, you get that anonymity, brusqueness and awkwardness of not knowing your neighbors.” Silvestre’s film has been shown at the Malaga Film Festival and at the Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece, where it won the Special Jury Award for Newcomers. The film is being distributed by The Film Collaborative.

Sentiments screens at Outfest 2021 on Saturday, August 14, 1:45 pm at the Directors Guild 2, amidst a very busy day of screenings. If you don’t think you can see in person, consider purchasing a virtual screening ticket, when you can see the film from 8/15 through 8/17. It is definitely worth it. To get an in-person or virtual screening ticket, go to: https://outfestla2021.com/sediments/