Synopsis: Sediments (Silvestre, 2021) is a documentary that follows six trans women as they travel to the tiny Spanish village, Puente de Alba. The women are all part of the I-Vaginarium collective; a project founded by Tina Recio to provide information to all transexual women considering vaginoplasty. On their week-long journey together, they discuss their experiences as trans women, reflect on their similarities and differences, and take in rural Spain.
Friends on Tour
Sediments features Magdalena (or Lena), Tina, Alicia, Cristina, Saya and Yolanda. They are spending a week together on the road as they drive, Lena, to her childhood home, so she can celebrate her 25th birthday with her family. However, she has already decided that she wants to live there permanently. Lena left her small mountain-town home for Barcelona so she could transition. Now with her transition complete, she wants to return home.
A Trans Journey
Although Adrián Silvestre is not a first time director, this is his first feature-length documentary. It is largely a conventional affair, which isn’t a criticism. The director documents his subjects in a naturalistic fashion as they travel across Spain. This approach affords the women an opportunity to explore their identities and openly reflect on their trans journeys (with minimal interaction from the filmmaker).
We witness the women being sniggered at whilst buying food at a service station. They prepare and cook food together. They flirt with an attractive man while he serves them food. They make jokes, laugh and occasionally argue.
They discuss the high percentage of trans people who find it difficult to find employment due to prejudices, but also the ridicule and persecution faced by those who are fortunate to find work. They reflect on the challenges of their surgeries and potential surgeries. They discuss transphobia and the hostilities that they have all faced.
Lena, Cristina and Yolanda
While all six women are seen and heard throughout the documentary, the film predominantly points its attention to Lena, Cristina and Yolanda. The film focuses on Lena’s story because it is essential to the film’s journey. However, through her, we see a loving and accepting family. Upon returning to her home town, Lena visits her mother and grandmother and is accompanied by Alicia. They review old family photos together and both elders always refer to the photos of Lena in the present tense. They always use the pronouns she or her, there are no accidental slips or incidents of *deadnaming. It is a heartwarming scene to watch and Silvestre is wise enough to let the scene unfold naturally.
Then there is Cristina and Yolanda. These are two women at very different stages in their journey, from very different backgrounds and have very different life experiences.
Cristina is quiet, reserved and conservative. She only began identifying as a trans woman at the age of 54 and has reservations about women that identify as feminists. In one confrontation she states that not all men persecute women (when discussing the unnamed patriarchy). She also describes herself as not being very politically correct. These scenes are not included to judge or shame Cristina, but to demonstrate the journey that she is on as she reflects on the societal programming that informs her views.
However, Cristina’s unguarded comments do lead to confrontational situations with Yolanda. Yolanda is brutally honest and as a former sex worker, she and Cristina are two very contrasting characters.
For example, Yolanda discusses her time as a sex worker and the abuse that she was subjected to. She was brutally raped and assaulted by a police officer. She explains how other sex workers would slash the jugulars of other women that they saw as being competition – whether they were more attractive or just earning more money. Then there’s another story involving an assault from another police officer that culminated with Yolanda’s heel being embedded in the officer’s head. This just highlights the dangers that all sex workers are exposed to.
The positive that comes from Cristina and Yolanda butting heads, is that they are always able to discuss their differences and overcome their challenges. It demonstrates what can be achieved by listening, a non-judgemental approach and a little bit of empathy.
Conclusion: Adrián Silvestre’s documentary offers an all too rare glimpse of the experiences faced by trans women. Silvestre’s naturalistic approach gives Lena, Tina, Alicia, Cristina, Saya and Yolanda the opportunity to be their authentic selves onscreen. A cis audience will particularly benefit from watching Sediments because it will help to demystify the women behind the trans label. An accomplished, if un-showy documentary, but it’s great to see more lived experiences of trans people being shown in cinemas (and eventually homes).
- Sediments (Silvestre, 2021) was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival, which runs until 17th October. A release date for Sediments is to be announced.
*Deadnaming – TransActual defines ‘Deadnaming’ as “Calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name. This term is often associated with trans people who have changed their name as part of their transition.”
Support for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid:
Mindline Trans+ is an emotional and mental health support helpline for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid.
Phone: 0300 330 5468 (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 8pm-midnight)
Find a Transgender Support Group Near You:
Trans Unite can provide access to over 100 verified UK Trans support groups.
What is transphobia?
If you’re unsure what Transphobia is, then please visit TransActual’s website where you can learn more about the subject. Trans Actual also hosts a variety of other resources that are useful for cis readers.
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