Lingua Franca was the first movie that I watched at HIFF this year. This movie was written by a transgender woman of color about a transgender woman of color who’s also an undocumented immigrant in the United States. I think telling stories like this is extremely important with today’s political climate. As someone who lives through it personally, I can be the first one to tell you that it can be really hard being a woman of color here. Part of my realization in this is just part of growing up, but I also wholeheartedly believe that our current administration has been a huge contributor to the discrimination against minority groups of people. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be to be trans and an undocumented immigrant on top of that.
While this movie was not a documentary like I’d assumed it was, I have no doubt that a lot of the plot was based on very real experiences. I wish I was able to stay for the discussion at the end of the movie to hear about how the director’s experiences were tied into this movie, but I had to go watch another film immediately after. I have to admit it can be pretty scary trying to speak out against discrimination that we face in our personal lives, especially when making judgment about our country. A lot of people, mostly those who have never dealt with discrimination personally, don’t like to admit that there are things we need to work on as a country. They think that calling out flaws in our system is unpatriotic. They think that because they haven’t dealt with certain issues personally, that those problems simply don’t exist, and try to invalidate the experiences of those different than them. Whether you’ve dealt with discrimination or not, I think it’s extremely naive to think that our country has no social issues that could be worked on. People usually try to also invalidate the argument, especially towards immigrants, by saying that things are worse in other countries. While I don’t doubt that’s true, that doesn’t mean that we can’t want better for ourselves. Wanting to create a better reality for all kinds of people in our country sounds very patriotic to me.
It’s frustrating being told from people who have never been in your shoes that your problems are invalid. I think it was extremely brave and inspiring that the director chose to tell a story like this. It’s not a feel-good movie with a happy ending. I’ll admit that I wanted a happy ending for the main character, but I also understand why she didn’t necessarily get one. It’s more real that way. I think film has many purposes, but one of the most important is that it can be used to tell stories that need to be told. When we have a president who does all he can to silence voices, it’s more important than ever that these stories be told.