As the news about Caitlin Jenner has put a national focus on being transgender, a new documentary provides an in-depth look into the transgender community in Puerto Rico and the fight to live for one's identity.
“Mala Mala” was inspired by a candid conversation with a drag queen about her transition, gender, and identity; directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini began filming the documentary which would span over two years.
The documentary displays a range of opinions on what it means to accept the identity of being a woman, both biologically and mentally. Other conversations surrounding gender identity arise throughout the documentary such as when Soraya, a subject known as the grandma of the Puerto Rican trans-liberation movement, introduces the idea of gender dysphoria. This ultimately leads her to a discussion of the difference between accepting your identity as a woman and simply playing the part in a visual sense.
“Mala Mala” introduces a diverse group of subjects located throughout Puerto Rico, from San Juan to town of Moca. Ivana is a popular transgender advocate; Sandy, a prostitute who faces a grim reality on the streets as she tries to support herself and maintain her identity; and April, a drag queen who works in the Dollhouse, a drag queen wonderland.
As the documentary develops, the subjects reveal their desire to be accepted into Puerto Rican society, which include being able to get jobs, healthcare, and housing as transgender individuals without facing discrimination. The activism from a number of members in the community leads to the creation of the Butterflies Trans Foundation, a civil rights group, that helps spark the passing of a bill that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in Puerto Rico. The documentary reveals this moment in all its momentum as a major accomplishment in what continues to be a battle for acceptance for transgender individuals.
The beauty of “Mala Mala” lies in its ability to showcase a community of people at various stages in their lives who don’t recount statistics but simply tell the stories of their human experience.
“Mala Mala” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and is now playing in select theaters in some cities.