In Orlando, My Political Biography, theorist, critic, and curator Paul B. Preciado takes Virginia Woolf’s classic novel as a starting point for a bold, joyous reflection on the nature of contemporary trans life and a celebration of queerness.
Orlando, My Political Biography
Paul B. Preciado
“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?
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, centred 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.
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