Orlando, My Political Biography – deconstructing the binary as we move toward a more Orlando universe
Orlando, My Political Biography is the rousing, heady debut feature by theorist, critic, and curator Paul B. Preciado. When prodded by peers to write about his experience of transition, he remarks, wryly, that Virginia Woolf had already done so. The work in reference is her classic 1928 novel, centered on the life of an androgynous aristocrat who changes their gender over several centuries, a literary masterwork that serves here as a starting point for a bold, free-form reflection on the nature of contemporary trans life and a celebration of queerness.
Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” tells the story of a young man who grows up to become a 36-year-old woman. Almost a century after its publication, Paul B. Preciado speaks to Virginia Woolf to tell her that her fictional character has become a reality. The transition of Orlando’s body now lies at the root of all non-binary bodies and there are Orlandos all over the world.
Through the authentic voices of other young bodies undergoing metamorphosis, Preciado retraces the stages of his personal transformation through a poetic journey in which life, writing, theory and image merge freely in the search for truth. Every Orlando, he says, is a transgender person who is risking his, her or their life on a daily basis as they find themselves forced to confront government laws, history, and psychiatry, as well as traditional notions of the family and the power of multinational pharmaceutical companies. But if “male” and “female” are ultimately political and social fictions, Orlando, My Political Biography shows us that change is no longer just about gender, but also about poetry, love and skin colour.
Playfully maximalist — locating the ribald alongside the sober, and erudition with the plain-spoken — Preciado transmutes Woolf’s love of language into an equally joyous appreciation of cinematic form, trading his own story and the novel’s sole protagonist for a multitudinous, collective experience. The result is a film of not one Orlando, but several.
Collaborating with an intergenerational group of trans and non-binary performers, the participants recite passages from the novel, share personal stories, and act out staged sequences, deftly situating the institutions of gender and sexuality alongside interrelated social, medical, and legal frameworks in order to confront and contort each. Smart, precise, deeply generous — and not least of all, fun! — Orlando, My Political Biography takes inspiration from the past while remaining adamantly grounded in the present and buoyed by commitments to a liberatory future.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Now playing in select theatres across Canada. Click here for dates, times, locations.
“I do not owe this survival instinct to psychoanalysis or psychology, quite the reverse, I owe it to books, to feminist, punk, anti-racist and lesbian books.” —Paul B. Preciado, Can the Monster Speak?
Paul B. Preciado was born in Burgos, Spain. A philosopher, author, and curator, he studied at The New School and Princeton University. Orlando, My Political Biography (23) is his debut film.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.