Alexa To Exa


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Alexa To Exa
"A modest but important film."

Almost everybody finds, at some stage in their teens or early twenties, that it's a struggle to fit in. It has become a cliché about young people, who are frequently mocked by those who have forgotten what it's like to live in a restricted world with limited knowledge of the opportunities that are out there. For some people, those opportunities are much more limited than they are for others. Alexa To Exa is a personal account of the effort it takes to find space in a society that seems unwilling to make much effort in return.

An opening shot, apparently captured some time before the rest of the film (by someone who has yet to master the difficult art of capturing sound on location), shows us a happy kid promising that what follows will be full of fun. This isn't entirely true, though there are certainly moments of joy to be found. It's not just that Exa is honest about feelings of despair, it's that there's a lot of anger here, albeit graciously expressed - and it's anger that most viewers will find hard to argue with.

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It's never easy to grow up queer in a small town. Exa seems to have stayed under the radar better than most, but that too has a price. As in many stories like this, higher education provides escape and the chance to live more openly, but even there there are challenges, and it's hard for a young person to see any kind of life beyond that. Must there be a return to the closet? The alternatives - the communities offering welcome and shelter to the lost - are out of sight. Nobody introduces them here. All we have is raw first person narrative. The craft with which it's put together, Exa proving to be a capable editor as well as narrator, is almost painful to see, because talents like this are so easily crushed under the pressures of trying to survive.

Exa will probably be fine. Many won't be. Even without that knowledge, that broader context, this is an affecting little film. Importantly, it challenges the myth of acceptance in the gay community, exploring what often happens when people come out as trans. Exa considers what it would mean to live post-transition in a society that would still be prescriptive and crude. The need for role models - especially for trans men - is painfully apparent, and this is something that many young people will feel they can connect with.

Exa wears bright coloured clothing, leaps around on sunny days, laughs loudly, finishes the film with disco lights - yet in many ways this is a story about invisibility. It's a modest but important film, and Exa's is a voice that deserves to be heard.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2016
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A personal exploration of what it means to come to terms with one's identity in a society whose categories and narratives never seem to fit.

Director: Exa Zim

Starring: Exa Zim

Year: 2015

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: US


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