Wednesday, 21 November 2018

UN in your language

Ciné-ONU: Girl

On 18th October UN Cinema screened ‘Girl’ by Lukas Dhont at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels, in partnership with the Government of Flanders and Cinéma Galeries.

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Girl tells the story of a 15-year-old girl called Lara, born in the body of a boy, who dreams of becoming a ballerina. With the support of her father, she throws herself into making her dream a reality when she enrolls at the Royal Ballet School Antwerp. Lara’s adolescent frustrations and impatience are heightened as she realises the limitations that being born into a boy's body imposes on her. Along with the physical difficulties Lara faces, she experiences mental anguish as she tries to succeed in a competitive vocation whilst she transitions. 

The screening was introduced by Lynn Verrydt, Policy Officer on LGBTI+ and Non-discrimination for the Flemish Agency for Local and Provincial Government.

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“Belgium as a whole, prides itself on progressive LGBT legislation and policy- pun intended by the way. Today, we hold second place in ILGA’s (European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) Rainbow Index, which ranks European countries according to their advancements in LGBT law and policy.” Ms Verrydt said in her introduction.

She continued: “In Flanders specifically, we want to empower transgender individuals by offering them transparent, complete and up to date information. Studies show that 22% of trans persons have attempted suicide at least once, which proves that the work we are doing is very important.”

With similar aims to ILGA, the Free and Equal campaign, an initiative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is committed to promoting equal rights and fair treatment of LGBT+people. National UN Free & Equal campaigns and events have been organised in almost 30 countries, with visible support from the UN, political, community and religious leaders and from celebrities in all regions of the world.

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The screening of ‘Girl’ was organised to increase our understanding of the difficulties that transgender people go through whilst transitioning. Ms Verrydt underlined how film can be used to communicate this: “The medium of film, when wielded as skillfully as this young director has done, has enormous power. It takes us beyond political rhetoric, beyond conservative narratives, beyond preconceived gender roles and allows us, if we are lucky, for a brief moment, to feel what the many transgender people feel when they come face to face with their true identity.”

She finished her introduction by highlighting that the power of film, in some ways, can go further than organisations to ignite empathy for issues, and people, which are not yet widely understood: “As a government, we want to aid and support them. To make resources, information and care available to them. To sensitise the wider public to the obstacles they face. To restrict institutions and employers from discriminating against them. But as a government, as much as we may want to, we cannot inspire the authentic empathy that comes with experiencing a story like Lara’s.”

The topics discussed in the film are linked to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. 

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