Girl (2018): Transgender Tale (Cannes Fest)

Interview with Lukas Dhont, the director and co-writer of the moving Belgian film, aptly and simply titled Girl, which world premiered to great acclaim at the 2018 Cannes Film Fest (in Un Certain Regard sidebar).

When I was 18 years old, I came across an article in a Belgian newspaper about a 15-year-old girl named Nora.

Nora was assigned male at birth. As she grew and became aware of who she is, she understood she wanted to live her authentic life and realized her dream of becoming an artist as a ballerina.

The fact that a 15-year-old had the courage to be true to herself above the opinion (and objection) of others both shocked and inspired me.

Nora’s story stayed with me and a year later, after having entered film school, I reached out to her. We got to know one another and soon grew to be close friends. She became a central figure in my life and, in time, the desire to make this personal hero of mine, a public role model of strength and courage, was something I could not ignore.

GIRL, my first feature film, is the biggest personal and professional endeavor of my life, and I rank the former highly above the latter.  This story was made to honor a friend and the weight of that responsibility was not taken lightly.

The thought of making a film that in any way cheapened her life, upset her, or threatened to tarnish our friendship would have been an irreversible devastation.

We went to great lengths, including working directly with Nora and the medical team of the Ghent University Hospital (one of the two leaders in Europe for the  medical treatment of trans people) to ensure GIRL was made from the first draft to final edit as an accurate portrayal of  this young ballerina.

GIRL is not Nora’s autobiography, but she inspired the film strongly. It was an intense five-year process for the entire team.

It was also important to us that the film showed its central figure, Lara, as a protagonist surrounded by love. Nora and I wanted as little conflict as possible with the outside world, so that her own body would become her greatest antagonist