Documentary about a transgender woman opens in Russia’s ArtDocFest

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“Eshchyo Chutok, Mrazi” (“Come On, Scumbags”), about an 18-year-old transgender woman in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, will screen in Moscow at ArtDocFest, the largest documentary film festival in Russia.

“Come On, Scumbags” is the second film by young documentary filmmaker and Karaganda native Madina Mustafina, whose first film, “Milana,” offered an intensely intimate look at the life of a homeless family on the streets; its success made her a star overnight, receiving top honors at ArtDocFest in 2011.

Mustafina is praised as a natural filmmaker with an innate gift for capturing the stark reality of her subject matter, with an unflinching gaze and an eye for detail. “Come On, Scumbags,” her sophomore effort, has already received a lot of attention because of her choice of protagonist, an enigmatic sassy teenager with long blond hair and captivating eyes named Zhenya—who happens to be trans.

“You never know what Zhenya is really thinking,” Mustafina told the Moscow News about her star, who captivates audiences and boyfriends alike with her sassy lines that disguise an emotionally withholding nature.

Onscreen, Zhenya parties hard, reveling an exhibitionist streak as she dances with wild abandon, leaving boyfriends entranced and viewers wanting more.

“Falling in love with me is the biggest mistake of your life,” Zhenya says playfully, as she kisses a boy who’s clearly smitten.

The film’s title comes from a scene in the film in which Zhenya jokingly asks her friends for help in order to get the gender confirmation surgeries she cannot afford. Having received financial help from her mother to get a breast augmentation, she lacks the funds necessary in order to complete her procedure—a common frustration in the transgender community that is systematically denied needed medical treatments.

While the conversation around LGBT representation in Russia has long been dominated by the political and social implications of homophobic legislation passed by the Putin administration, the film offers a different lens through which to view the LGBT community; the film is first and foremost about the people and their struggle, the politics remain secondary.

For those audiences whose first encounter with a transgender woman will be Zhenya, the drama of the documentary will revolve around her gender identity—but the film offers so much more for open-minded audiences. “Come on, Scumbags” is an intensely personal depiction of a complicated, tempestuous teen dealing with intimacy issues, lust, and the language of the body.

For Mustafina, who spent nine months following her around, Zhenya “is, by nature, a star.”

429 Magazine

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