Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

Queerguru’s Ris Fatah reviews ‘Woman Of (Korbieta Z) the life and transition of a small-town Polish trans-woman




Woman Of (Korbieta Z) is a powerful, heartfelt feature drama detailing the life and transition of a small-town Polish trans-woman, Andrzej Wesoly to Aniela Wesoly. Spanning over four decades from 1980 to 2023, the latest feature film from Polish directors Małgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert screens this Saturday 23rd March at the ICA London, as part of the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival.

Developed from interviews with the transgender community, we begin in Poland in 1980 when the slight-framed teenage Andrzej (Mateusz Wieclawek) finds themself excluded from the army draft as they have painted toenails. By 1985 they have matured into a handsome, muscled twenty-something working in stage construction. There they meet nurse Izabela (Bogumila Bajor). The two fall passionately in love, get married and have a child. 1980s Poland is macho, political, simple, and conservative. During this period, however, Andrzej gradually begins to realise that they are living in the wrong body. Their testosterone levels are low, they lose interest in sex with Izabela and begin to explore their feminine side. They mention these feelings to a doctor who, in true 1980s bullish fashion, says “Testosterone is power”, and recommends testosterone supplementation and sex with a hot female escort.

Fast forward to the 1990s and Andrzej has found information on cross dressing and transgender lives. They are now a she and steals her mother’s HRT medication and starts taking it, and secretly wears Izabela’s lingerie and stockings. Andrzej is slowly getting empowered but it’s a lonely, furtive life that has to be kept underground from her wife, kids and parents, who also live with them. A new doctor in Warsaw explains the Polish process to transition which is a complicated legal and medical route that isn’t really designed in the best interests of the trans person.

From 2004 Andrzej refers to herself as Aniela. The middle-aged Aniela is now played by Malgorzata Hajewska. Although she now dresses as a woman in front of her family, (now with two children), life remains tough. Her wife (now brilliantly played by Joanna Kulig) has found a journal that Andrzej kept for 15 years detailing her trans journey, as well as her lingerie in Andrzej’s possession. Andrzej attends a transgender support group which helps, and purchases female hormones. She also finds a sympathetic doctor. However, her work life, family life, sex life and transition follow a very rocky path, peppered with odd moments of joy, up until 2023.

Women Of is probably the most comprehensive analysis of the trans journey to date. Great cinematography in a beautiful pastel colour palette combines well with a gentle poetic soundtrack. The vintage 1980s – 2000s Poland set designs are spot-on. Excellent casting and performances complement each other. Hajewska in particular paints a stoic picture of trans life in a brutal, largely small-minded, Polish society, which still does not have any law on gender recognition. Hurdle after hurdle need to be overcome, medically, socially, legally and professionally. Attitudes to Aniela are largely cold and misunderstood, sometimes even cruel, but these are tempered by brief shots of warmth from unexpected quarters. A beautiful, poignant study of the loneliness of a long-distance runner. Highly recommended.



Kinoteka Polish Film Festival takes place in venues across London until 28 March. 
For further information and tickets: https://kinoteka.org.uk/


Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant  (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah

Posted by queerguru  at  21:36


Genres:  drama, international, trans

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