Laura Bispuri’s Sworn Virgin is, in her own a words, “a whole discourse on the body.” It’s an exploration of gender fluidity butting up against social norms as rigid as the mountains that surround its central Albanian village. In lyrical flourishes and with quiet, moving grace, Bispuri presents an unusually fraught journey to an authentic self.
Describing Sean Baker’s Tangerine is essentially making a list of dodgy propositions. It was shot entirely on iPhone 5s. It features two non-actors in the leads (though surrounds them with more established people like James Ransone, who played Ziggy on The Wire and will appear in the upcoming Sinister 2, and a whole cast of Armenian performers who are well-known abroad).
In the mountains of Albania, rigid gender roles dominate. But a curious exception exists: some residents born biologically female are permitted to become men if they swear to remain virgins for life. They do this for many reasons: maybe that’s the gender identity they recognized to be true from the start, maybe the family lacks a son and heir, or maybe they simply desire the freedom maleness provides.