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A CHAT WITH "LIMINA" PRODUCERS JOSHUA FERGUSON AND FLORIAN HALBEDL

We have had the pleasure to talk with Joshua M. Ferguson and Florian Halbedl, advocates and producers of the multiple award-winning short film Whispers of Life (2013). They discuss their running project Limina, whose crowdfunding campaign is active on Indiegogo till May 23th, their creative and advocating choices and the difficulties to stand for non-binary transgender subjects. 
 
.At the moment you have an open campaign on Indiegogo to fund a new project called "Limina", what can you tell us about it?

Limina is about a magical gender-fluid child named Alessandra who, led by innocence and intuition, is so curious about the lives of the inhabitants of a small picturesque town that they decide to play an active part in an unknown woman’s mourning process. Alessandra’s quest of kindness and compassion will touch the hearts of international audiences.

The goal for Limina is to make a cultural intervention by adding a positive cinematic example to the emerging discussion about gender-fluid/gender-creative/gender-nonconforming kids and parenting. Both gender-fluid/gender-creative/gender-nonconforming kids and cisgender kids will watch this film and learn about tolerance and acceptance. It will also help gender-fluid/gender-creative/gender-nonconforming kids to feel less alone.

Limina will be shot in the Ticino region of Switzerland with the help of the Ticino Film Commission!


.This will be your second short movie, after the really successful "Whispers of Life", what made you choose short films as medium for your advocacy work? Is it a purely creative choice or do you think they are more effective in some way?  

Joshua & Florian: Short films help to enable the encapsulation of powerful messages represented in Whispers of Life and now Limina because we live in a digital age where attention spans are shorter due to the immediacy and accessibility of media. Also, we found that educational distributors appreciate short-films for classroom-based education because it allows for discussion time after screening the film. Whispers of Life and Limina carry social and cultural relevance in order to fill representational gaps in cinema. Whispers of Life provoked an explicit discussion about suicide prevention that ends with an optimistic message of hope. Limina focuses on the beautiful diversity of gender-fluid children and how children’s voices are often ignored both in cinema and reality.

Joshua: Creatively, short films are challenging because the story needs to be tight and focused in order to hook the audience early on in the narrative. Feature films have multiple chances to hook audiences, but short films are obviously afforded less time due to length. Finally, it’s exciting to creatively sculpt both the fictional world of a short film and the characters because there are less locations and characters to divide your time, which results in very focused attention towards these areas of the production.
Florian: Given the challenges of short films in terms of creating characters, a world, and a cohesive story in a short period of time, short films are the ideal preparation and learning ground for bigger projects. We decided to work in the short film medium for Whispers of Life and Limina in order to infuse topics of social relevance into effective and small forms of entertainment. Given people’s short attention span, as Joshua said, these short films are most effective.

.This world is still really ignorant when it comes to the LGBTQ community, what difficulties have you and your husband Florian encountered in your work as advocates?


This is a good question. We think it’s important to share these types of experiences because a multiplicity of challenges still exists for LGBTQIA2 peoples.

Joshua: Currently, both my filmmaking and academic work are dealing with the problematic oppression of transpeople in our society. I identify as non-binary transgender, which means that my gender identity is neither man nor woman but something else entirely that hasn’t entered into vernacular. Therefore, it is difficult because my identity is almost impossible in terms of societal recognition at this point in time. The focus of my work is on articulating the diversity of transpeople and this includes the beautiful protagonist of Limina.

Honestly, there are many difficulties. I am open with my queer sexuality and my transgender subjectivity, so I encounter homophobia and transphobia often (sometimes on a daily basis). The way beyond it is to realize that visibility counts against this type of oppression. My visibility as a queer and trans academic and filmmaker will not only challenge oppression, but it will help others find safe ways to be visible. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be visible. I am privileged as a Caucasian middle-class person, so my visibility is easier to achieve than it might be for people more marginalized than myself due to the intersectionality of their sex, sexuality, gender, race and/or class.

Florian: One of the challenges with making queer films is that your film is automatically categorized by society as being an "LGBT Film" rather than simply a ‘Film.’ We want to make films that are seen by audiences in general, not just queer and trans audiences, because queer and trans people are part of the social fabric of life. As soon as queer and trans people are seen as simply a part of that fabric, rather than a separate entity, or a separate piece of it, then queer and trans films can enter the universe enjoyed and discussed by all people.


 
.Every month we choose a topic we develop through articles, stories, twitter discussions and our daily quotes. For May the team has chosen "self-love" as a theme to tie to the choice to transition from one gender to another, staying true to who you really feel you are. What can you tell us about it from your experience? Is it an act of self love?


Joshua: I think it’s beautiful that your team is focusing on self-love. Self-love isn’t just an inward action. The active essence of loving oneself beams outwards and actually helps others via the power of love. I often feel self-love because of the love from people around me. I think we need to share love more in our various cultures. In regards to my gender subjectivity, I exist on a spectrum of gender that isn’t supported by the binaries, so loving this part of myself is definitely practicing a form of self-love. Coming to terms with my non-binary gender(s) was probably one of the biggest acts of self-love in my life so far!


.Last month Sweden added the gender neutral pronoun "hen" to its language but the majority of languages have binary pronouns, like English. Do you think the introduction of gender neutrality in languages can be important for a better inclusion of transgender people? What else has to be done in your opinion?


Joshua: I am so happy that you raised this promising cultural change in Sweden. Sweden should be commended around the globe for introducing a third-gender option for people who exist outside of the binary. Yes, one of the major steps forward in terms of recognizing people like me is to introduce a gender-neutral pronoun. I ask people to use the gender-neutral English-pronoun of they/them/their for me. Language is a very important area to recognize transpeople, but there are many other areas. For example, governments need to recognize an entire third-gender identity for formal documentation purposes. It hurts whenever I have to check off male/man or female/woman on an identification document. 

Florian: The problem with language is that it will never be enough to adequately ‘represent’ someone’s life experience, let alone the experience of an entire collection of lives. Language will always be an attempt to define, categorize, explain and simply put into the words the things we experience, the things we are and are evolving to become. Language, in a way, is a system put in place to do that. Language is our tool to communicate with each other and share our experience as we go through life but it’s also the way we exist in the eyes of those around us. In order for everyone to exist and for everyone to be represented in the way they feel most comfortable we have to use language effectively, which is what Sweden has done.

For more info about Joshua Ferguson and Florian Halbedl's work, take a look at the Turbid Lake Pictures official site and their Twitter pages: @JoshuaMFerguson and @FlorianHalbedl. You can donate to fund Limina heading to its  Indiegogo page.
   

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