A foreign-language Netflix film telling the true story of a transgender ballerina has been hit by an array of criticism and the real-life inspiration for “Girl” is speaking out.
“Girl” is based on the true story of Nora Monsecour, chronicling her struggles as a young transgender woman in the competitive world of ballet, but the film has been taking heat for being written and directed by cisgender males, in addition to criticism that actor Victor Polster — who portrays a trans character based Monsecour — is not a transgender female, but a feminine-looking cisgender male.
In addition, some critics have ripped the film for numerous scenes in which Polster’s character tapes down her penis, accusing the film of taking a voyeuristic approach to depicting a transgender body.
However, Monsecour says that those who criticize the film for those reasons are missing the point, and are actually working to negate her life story.
“Those criticizing ‘Girl ‘are preventing another trans story from being shared in the world, and are also attempting to silence me and my trans identity,” Monsecour writes in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter. “Every day, I see young, transgender people fighting for their dreams, accomplishing their goals. They are not weak and fragile. ‘Girl’ tells my story in a way that doesn’t lie, doesn’t hide. To argue that Lara’s experience as trans is not valid because [director] Lukas [Dhont] is cis or because we have a cis lead actor offends me.”
She continues: “I made it through my darkest, most challenging times. I am a professional dancer and a unique, brave, strong woman that knows exactly who she is and what she wants. Now, I can proudly say that I am transgender. I faced my challenges and my naysayers head-on and did not back down from my convictions. I will do the same to support this film, my friend Lukas, and this story.”
As Monsecour explains, the film — which has been submitted for Oscar consideration and already earned a Golden Globe nomination — “is not a representation of all transgender experiences, but rather a retelling of experiences that I faced during my journey,” adding: “I spent countless hours focusing on my internal demons and feeling betrayed by my physical body. What hurt me the most was not the people who bullied me, who put me down, who didn’t want me to succeed. What caused me the most turmoil was myself and my thoughts. In ‘Girl’, these thoughts became an important part of Lara’s psyche too. I’m thankful to the team at Ghent Hospital, who helped me throughout my treatment, and consulted closely with Lukas on the film to ensure we were accurate. This was integral in developing the character of Lara.”
Making the film, she adds, “allowed me to accept myself as transgender and helped me finally love myself without anger or shame. But I also saw the tears rolling down the cheeks of young, trans girls standing in front of me when the film premiered in Cannes. I can still feel the warmth of their hugs, the smiles on their faces and I still read the messages of their parents thanking me. ‘Girl’ is made for them, by a director who believed in me. A cis director who believed that my trans story deserved to be heard. A human being that loved someone so much, he dedicated 10 years of his life thinking about how to tell her story.”
“Girl” makes its Netflix debut on Jan. 18.