A little over halfway through Récit de soi, a personal documentary about the small realizations that led to the filmmaker’s understanding of their gender identity, Géraldine Charpentier-Basille makes a case for the importance of films like this. After seeing the 2011 film Tomboy and its depiction of identities outside the gender binary, Charpentier-Basille remembers thinking “I was actually relieved when I realized that my story was not unique, and that it could be told in cinema.” Representation matters because it has a way of making subjects less exotic and more mundane. Familiarity leads to understanding, to discovering that you’re not as alone as you may feel. It gives language and context to feelings that can be difficult to interpret otherwise, and Charpentier-Basille is clear about how important that was for them.
Even without that self-justification, though, it would have been easy to recognize the importance of a film like Récit de soi (which loosely translates to “self-narrative” or “self-story”). It’s a friendly but direct monologue that builds around a core of patience and empathy. For those who relate to the director’s experiences, it’s a film about reassurance, as it walks through moments where Charpentier-Basille felt isolated and alone. For those who haven’t felt that same sense of gender non-conformity, it’s a film about connection, speaking with the deliberate thoughtfulness of a natural educator. For both, it uses the flexibility of animation to create a calm, casual setting that’s still open to playfulness and visual metaphor, with a warm sense of humour that makes the monologue that much more inviting.
Animated docs have always been particularly well suited to self-exploration, especially for topics that are mostly internal. Where traditional films can only show their subjects thinking, animation can show the thoughts, using visual metaphors to elaborate on feelings that are otherwise difficult to put into words. By taking their path to self-understanding and depicting it with warmth, care, and directness, Charpentier-Basille has made an entertaining short that doubles as a gateway to understanding.
Récit de soi
dir: Géraldine Charpentier-Basille
syn: My third year graduation movie at l’ENSAV la Cambre, Bruxelles (with english subtitles).