In the Name of My God

Transparent is a mind-blowing show that portrays the story of a transgender person – Maura Pfefferman and her LA-located family.  Maura’s three adult children, each experiencing their own sexual/gender issues at different stages of their lives, had distinct ways in coping with their father’s coming out as a transgender person. They were also pushed to explore the various unresolved conflicts in their idenity and developed deeper understanding of their own. It’s one of the best shows I have ever seen in normalising the existence of LGBT community in the everyday life — It brings out all sides of the LGBT in an honest but romantic way. One of the memorable parts of the show is that as a Jewish family, the Pfeffermans actively celebrate their ancestry by going to Jewish gatherings, reflecting on their past, and following different traditional rituals. All the religious practice with the presence of synagogue, close interaction with Rabbi, has lead the audience to view LGBT culture through a unique lens. When religious freedom and sexuality diversity meet, it challenges “the normal”, and yields this incredible level of  tolerance, communication, and love in an open religious community.

The similar feeling struck me again when watching the Japanese film — Close Knit (2017), where a young girl (Tomo) witnessed her uncle’s girlfriend (Rinko), who is a transgender person, encountering different kinds of discrimination in her daily life. As a way to channel her anger and determination to become a woman, Rinko set a goal of knitting 108 colourful woolly “penises” and then burning them as a symbolic way of letting go of her male identity, hoping this ritual inspired by the Buddhist idea of reincarnation would allow her to truly embrace her new identity without fear and worries. The act of knitting happened throughout the film, the scene where she finally burnt away “her past” with the help with Tomo and Tomo’s uncle is one of the highlights of the film. In this film, practice of religious ritual plays an important role in providing the emotional support for Rinko, and goes beyond to empower her to establish her identity in a society where LGBT is still a taboo subject to a large extent.

All of this more or less contradicts my previous understanding of the relationship between religions and LGBT issues, which is mostly observed from the conservative side of different religious groups as covered by media. The recent example being the discovery that religions play a role that is positively correlated to the “NO” vote in the Same Sex Marriage vote in Australia. I believe there are different layers of understanding, support and tolerance on the issue of LGBT among all different religions and sub-religious groups. However it is undeniable that the practice of faith among LGBT groups can not be stopped no matter how strong the disagreement one religion holds against the LGBT community. In spite of numerous conflicts and challenges in the modern world, I can still see how religions evolve in people’s minds and be reinvented in people’s hands.
After all, genuinity and being true to one’s heart is what makes a faith most sacred, authentic and strong. Love is love.
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Close Knit (2017)

Silence

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2 missionaries, 1 boat, an isolated island.
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Long journey, troubled souls, diminishing hope.
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No redemption, on the soil full of oppression.
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Only more blood, despair, and death.
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Silence, silence, endless silence.
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Do people want to be saved, or too scared to live?
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In the movie, there is a few scenes where Christian villagers were asked by the governor to spit or step on a piece of wood carved image of Christ or Virgin Mary, as a gesture of rejecting the faith. It’s a decision of life or death, while most of them chose death, holding onto the hope that they would be in Heaven eventually. The Father, after suffered all the extreme pain for being devout to his belief, chose to live. Before he stepped on that piece of wood, he seemed to have a moment of enlightenment by seeing a vision of Jesus and hearing him giving the permission to step on him. His desperation got deeper and he struggled to comprehend the meaning of praying to silence. The choice puts an end to the physical pain from the outside world, yet is that the end of his doubt? Or the start of more questioning by the silence.
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I was surprised that the film was shot entirely in Taiwan — a slight compromise of authenticity given the costs to deliver the message I guess. It more or less shows Scorsese’s approach to survival as a devout filmmaker, and a Father to Hollywood cinema.