Adrián Silvestre’s Sediment is an empathetic and, at times, a joyful film that allows a group of six transexual women to be themselves in a most welcoming environment. An important film that should have as wide an audience as possible.
Magdalena has decided that she wants to return to her hometown of León to celebrate her birthday and invites some members of the Barcelona collective I-Vaginarium to join her. As they traverse the Spanish countryside, the group – including group leader Tina, brutally honest former sex-worker Yolanda and the more conservative and quieter Cristina – begin to open up to one another, sharing their stories.
The town of León shines brightly here for how accepting everyone we encounter is of the six women, there never seems to be any negativity from the townsfolk, and it is so warming to see. It is how the world should be, yet this small town in the Spanish countryside has been able to do what the more urban civilisations have failed to do. This positive tone from the town and thus Sediments itself allows the audience to not focus on what might happen to the women during their stay but on the stories, experiences, worries and hopes they have for their future.
This multi-generational group can bounce off one another tremendously well; the older women can detail their past and show the younger women how life was for them back when they were the same age. We can explicitly hear the differences that they had during that period in their lives.
Yolanda, for example, is a bit harsher with the others, especially Cristina, because of the trauma she has had to encounter throughout her life. Addiction and prostitution are what helped her get through and survive that period of her life. As she and others guide Magdalena and Alicia, we see some touching moments in Sediments. Alicia wants to have a genital operation and thinks that sex work will be the only way to afford it. Yolanda pushes against such thoughts due to her own experiences; Yolanda had become the person she never had when she was younger, someone to ask and enquiry to about her world. She has gone through the pain of her past to help make sure that the younger generations do not need to.
The dynamic between the six is a constantly evolving thing, and for an enjoyable change, the focus isn’t solely on the trauma, though as said, they are mentioned. The group, for the most part, has conversations and play games that flow naturally. It is often forgotten in films and television that people who are transexual also enjoy life. Here in Sediments, we are allowed to watch and experience that. The wonderful moments when they interact around the town bring smiles to your face, especially when flirting with a waiter begins. It feels normal because they and what they are doing is normal; it is just a shame that these funny, vibrant and personable scenes are presented so little on-screen.
However, there is friction within the group, as you would imagine with any group where people do not fully know one another. With Cristina, she comes across in the film as the point of frustration for us as an audience. Transitioning later in life, Cristina has a lot of doubt within herself, and due to her introverted nature, she sometimes comes across as rather unfavourable. For example, one evening, she has a strong discussion with Yolanda that causes her to be labelled an egomaniac; with her apparent narcissistic nature, she never shakes off that line for the majority of the film, which coincidentally proves Saya right.
It shows that while they are in a small community, there can still be this friction; people have different backgrounds and reasons for who they eventually allow themselves to become. You almost fear in the film that Silvestre allows Cristina too much screen time as she battles with her own thoughts and that some of the time given to her could have been used to flesh out others within the group. Still, would the entire film be as effective without her? No, we need to see this wide range of women so that idea that transexual women are not all the same, can be cemented to audiences who maybe didn’t know better beforehand.
Adrián Silvestre does best when he allows moments to play out, we see the arguments and discussions come and go, and it allows us to settle and feel like a fly on the wall to the groups weekend. However, when the group are in full flow, you almost do not want him to cut away. You want to keep experiencing this moment, such as how full of life it is. He brings us a film that gives you hope for a more welcoming world. If we can all be like the population of León, the world would be a far better place.
For more coverage of the 2021 London Film Festival, have a look below!
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest
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