Films: Tales of the Waria

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Tales of the Waria

Tales of the Waria

USA, 2010, 56 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Asian, Documentary, Educational, GLBT, Romance, Social Issues
Programs: Cinema Q, Documentary Films
Language: Indonesian English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Kathy Huang
Producer: Kathy Huang
Editor: Carla Gutierrez
Cinematographer: Kathy Huang
Principal Cast: 

For the waria—men who live as women—life in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, is not always easy. But this eye-opening documentary by Chinese-American filmmaker Kathy Huang plays havoc with Western conceptions of Muslim intolerance and, for that matter, with our usual notions of gender identity.

In the southern Indonesian city of Makassar, at least, the waria are not shunned or persecuted but accepted as equals. In this brief glimpse of some of their lives (the film runs a tidy 60 minutes) we meet Tiara—a self-absorbed beauty queen who says she doesn't want a sex-change procedure because it would violate Islamic teachings—as well as aging Mami Ria, a locally beloved makeup artist, who struggles in her long relationship with Pak Ansar, a Makassar policeman and father who also remains married to a woman. His wife, in turn, embraces his double life.

Suharni, now 31, has had AIDS for 10 years (“I never blame God; I blame myself”) and continues a relationship with Madi, a seemingly straight man who thinks of Suharni as a woman. Perhaps most affecting is Firman, whose father beat him as a child because the boy didn't conform to expectations, and who now prays that God will convert him “into a real man.” Firman's lament: “I walk two paths. Will it always be this way?”

For filmmaker Huang, who lives in Los Angeles, the waria have been a revelation. “One thing I learned early on in Indonesia,” she says, “is that putting people and their sexual orientations into categories can be messy and not always worthwhile.”

In memory of Deena Garrett, devoted DFS volunteer and member for many years.

Sponsored by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, One Colorado Education Fund

In Cooperation with The Center

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