“The kind of film you would want to give a hug to.”
During last night’s screening of Sidney & Friends, we met Sidney, who is intersex, flee to Nairobi after his parents tried to kill him. The award-winning documentary shows his journey as he meets a group of transgender friends, alonsgide who he fights discrimination and discovers life, love and self-worth.
We caught up with director Tristan Aitchison to learn more about the film, it’s intention and how it all came together.
“In 2013, I travelled to Kenya to visit my sister. But a meeting with Guillit, a transboi and activist changed the course of the next four years of my life,” explains Tristan. “Guillit just wanted to be heard. He told me other members of the transgender and intersex community, living on the edge of society, wanted to speak out too.”
“I was welcomed into the small community where other filmmakers and journalists had been refused access. Over a two-month period, I got to know six members of this community. Despite the risks involved, all were determined to tell their stories,” Tristan continues. “Some interviews were incredibly difficult. Our contributors have suffered traumatic life events and there were several times I had chills at what I was being told.”
Tristan recalls Sidney telling him about a time he was beaten by a group with clubs and sticks while his mother just stood and watched and another where he was beaten, stripped, and left for dead in the street by a gang.
“A kind doctor paid for a motorcycle taxi to take him home,” says Tristan. “When the driver dropped him off, Sidney’s father turned to the driver and said, ‘If she is not dead, take her away, because I have already started digging her grave.’”
The film was guerrilla and created on zero-budget, with its post-production team contributing their talents and time.
“The creative vision was to produce a feature that curates the reality of living as a transgender or intersex person in Africa, and show the day-to-day obstacles and hurdles that people from this community face the world over,” says Tristan. “I always wanted to present this in a way that is not sensationalist, but rather was soft and touching; the sort of film you would want to give a hug to.”