This past spring director Flavio Alves’ film won the Audience Award at SXSW. That alone grabs your attention in that regular film goers (not grumpy critics) loved it best out of all other films at the festival. Impressive! Then the fact that it is a film depicting the life of a Latina trans woman and that all the trans roles are played by trans actors is another aspect that sets the film apart. All this on top of the fact that it is an engaging and well made film, of course.
A young Latina trans woman lives with her abuela or grandmother in an apartment in New York City. At first glance this might seem strange to some, but they get along so well that it seems a completely natural arrangement. Granddaughter Tina (Carlie Guevara – Anna Tivel: The Question) earns money driving a town car/cab while grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz – I Love You Phillip Morris, We Own the Night) takes care of the cleaning and cooking. Each is happy with the arrangement.
Tina has decided to undergo the transition from male to female. All that entails. The talking to a psychiatrist (Edward Asner – Up, Elf) to get the okay, attend the doctor appointments and pay for the medical procedures/medication. All this is made more difficult as they are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. They have been in the U.S. for a long time as the nearly 30 year old Tina has been there since the age of five. So Tina has, at a certain point, to obtain some fake ID. There will be several bumps in the road of Tina becoming who she truly is.
Though we, as a society, have gotten better in our awareness of the issues the trans community faces and some of us have become more inclusive, there still is a long way to go. In regards to obtaining their full complementary of human rights and living full lives. They are still victims of violence, hatred and biases. In most parts of the world the trans community is one of the most vulnerable and targeted portions of the population. This has to change! And it is through films like this that the change is going to come.
Films like The Garden Left Behind which destigmatize the trans community and show that they are the same as everyone else. They have hopes, dreams, loves, heart break, struggles, etc. Just like everyone. Shows Tina struggling to make money, dealing with her immigration issues, spending time with her friends, and being in a relationship. The film shines the spotlight on people who have, up until very recently, existed on the fringes. Been afraid to live their true lives for fear of violence and even death.
The film, which is a drama, is done with such a realistic tone and look that at times you feel like you are watching a documentary. All the actors/actresses here also contribute to that feeling in that they totally inhabit their characters. It is another example of loads of first time actors turning in professional and realistic performances. Draws you in completely. I was so involved in the story and wanting to know what would happen with Tina that I did not see the ending coming at all! Wonderful filmmaking!