When film director Melinte Reitzema brings to light the life of Lucy, iconic Sink The Pink queer dancer and trans, it’s as an ode to tolerance that she wants to offer and share with the world. For her first documentary, the filmmaker chose Lucy because she trusted in her capacity to translate her intimate story through a beautiful and honest gaze. The result from this collaboration is an incredible and sensitive portrait humanising the transgender experience with a unique aesthetic. We spoke to both the director and the main character of the film to know both sides of the story.
Winner of the Best Reality Performance at the New Renaissance Film Festival, the documentary discloses an empowering celebration of self-acceptance leaving an indelible mark upon viewers, trans-rights thinkers and everyone who’s fighting for freedom and understanding.
What was your main intention behind the project?
Lucy: I think we wanted to give people something they could relate to; something real and honest.
Melinte: There has been a lot of stuff about and on transgenders, but I have not seen anything where they are willing to answer to things like Lucy did. I think, in a way, why would they? The people that get to see Lucy are very lucky to see and hear the answers to those uncomfortable questions. But this is the first thing that comes to people’s minds: they think about these superficial and uncomfortable questions, but once you get rid of them, one can start thinking more about how these people have actually been fighting for their identity for years.
Why did you pick Lucy for the film?
Melinte: I had been doing a lot of video content and wanted to further my experience. I came across an online communication agency that was commissioning money about films on gender, and so the first thing that came to my mind was Lucy. I wrote a statement and it didn’t win, but nevertheless I still decided to go ahead with it. If I had the choice, I would probably still have chosen Lucy.
Lucy is a very strong character with an incredible sensitivity. How did you translate this emotionality into moving images?
Melinte: So, I have to be really honest: I didn’t really know what I was doing. While I was doing it, I just did it by pure feeling. I was really nervous when I first met Lucy as I was unaware of how open she would be with me and how comfortable she would be talking to me. I remember the first time we did the interview at her house; we had the camera rolling for four hours.
Lucy: We had met up about doing it, and then we met for the first interview at my house; we just sat down and did it. It was like having a conversation about everything for about four hours.
Were you used to play in front of a camera? 
Lucy: It was the first time. I mean, I have been in a few music videos, but never in a situation like this where I am opening up so much to an audience.
It’s impressive how confident and natural you look.
Melinte: I think that’s because we were in her bedroom, and it was like her ‘safe space’. In the end it ended up turning into a conversation, and we almost forgot the camera was there. We had this four hour interview recorded, and it was only when I went back to the edits later on that I realised what an amazing footage I had captured. This ended up happening every time, whether it was with Lucy’s mom, or Amy – one of Sink the Pink founders.
Did you get Lucy involved into the edit as well?
Lucy: We kept on working together on it, and I think that’s kind of what helped it come together. Looking back along the way, it never once felt like it was out of my hands or that I didn’t have a say. Melinte would kind of put it together and then we would look through it together. I was really involved in it, although it was Melinte who did all the editing.
Melinte: I think this was really important, as it was so important to do justice to her story.
What was your reaction when you saw the movie finished for the first time?
Lucy: There were definitely tears and a good amount of cringing when I first watched the film, but mostly I just remember being so happy with what Melinte showed me.
As a queer performer you are used to play with your image on stage. But how was it to see you in your own role? Dealing with your deep intimacy, your old friends, your mum, etc.?
Lucy: Filming the documentary wasn't as challenging as I thought it might be. I really trusted Melinte and she made me feel so comfortable it was easy to forget the camera was there. I think the most difficult thing was showing my mum the finished piece and seeing her reaction.
What was her reaction?
Lucy: I watched it with her and she was really upset. I think she assumed that people would think of her as a bad mother. She had come down to visit me, and straight away left on the train after seeing the result. She sent me a really long text message about how she thought she hadn’t supported me when I needed her, and that she had failed me as a mother. It was really sad, as that wasn’t what we had intended to do with the film in any way, and I don’t think that anyone that has watched it has said anything negative about that part of the film. I just told her that all of it is in the past and that our relationship right now is really good. It is what it is, and we’ve moved on.
Melinte: I was actually really surprised about how honest she was with me about her experience.
Lucy: I think it helped doing the interview and then watching the whole film helped her in a way; it helped her see the whole thing from a different perspective and allowed her to rethink about things again.
Melinte: As like Glynn – the other Sink the Pink founder, together with Amy – says, people attack what’s vulnerable, and I guess that’s what she was worried about. She was worried for Lucy; she was worried for herself.
On screen you are playing with black and white and colour effects along with liquid and water, reflecting the gender fluidity that you are both defending through the film. How did this visual process come first to your mind?
Melinte: So my boyfriend is a surfer and is also a DOP, also working in water. He had just come back from a trip and had this amazing footage, and because the documentary is not following drama – it’s mainly interviews – I thought maybe I could use these waves and put the material altogether. Since I haven’t been to film school, I guess that really worried me because I thought I was doing things wrong, but in the end I followed what felt right to me.
My choice in using black and white for the trailer was based on what Glynn and Amy say about how everyone see’s everything as so black and white. And I therefore thought, maybe if people see the trailer in black and white, the contrast will be huge once they actually see the film in colour.
You also have a very sensitive aesthetic taste when choosing the clothing. Did you work with professional stylists?
Lucy: Nothing is staged; it’s all what happened naturally. In fact, a lot of the film just happened organically. It’s really nice that the world you get to see is really stylish and colourful, and I guess that’s another theme in the film. It’s really about being who you are and expressing yourself, and wearing whatever you choose.
What’s being trans like from a fashion perspective?
Lucy: I guess fashion is a big way of expressing your gender, and I think that when I was younger I found it really difficult to be restricted in what I was able to wear. I feel like I have a lot of freedom now to present myself in the way I choose to. I think that’s a big part of why I felt so restricted when I was a teenager, and I was being bullied in basis of what I was wearing, like how I had long hair, for example. It’s so nice to have that freedom now and to be able to express myself through fashion, and I think that a lot of the people in the film really do show through their character in basis of what they wear. And that’s predominantly why there is so much colour and flamboyancy.
I also think the fashion world has been already quite interested in the androgynous scene for a while, and models like Andreja Pejić have opened the fashion world and dialogue about people who are transgender. I feel like the fashion world was more accepting of trans people earlier then other industries.
The film talks about the psychological aspect of being transgender but also about the physical side of dealing with your sex reassignment surgery experience. What advice would you give people who are in fear about doing it?
Lucy: I think the main thing is to be patient. I know it’s frustrating to be on the waiting list, or waiting for the approval for surgery. You have to be accessed for about one year, and then the waiting list. And all of that time you feel as if you’re going somewhere, yet it’s so slow and very frustrating. It’s just waiting for things to happen, being on hormones, and feeling as if you’re not who you want to be yet.
I was reading earlier on your Facebook something you've posted about another bad but common experience you recently had: “Wow you have an amazing body, I can’t believe you are a trans”. What is your answer to this kind of remarks? How do you use social media to engage with the public?
Lucy: I don't think the person who said that meant any offence; they were actually trying to pay me a compliment. But it highlights the ignorance and insensitivity trans people have to deal with on a regular basis. By sharing my story I hope that we can encourage people to think about the issues faced by transgender people.
You have now become a popular activist of trans rights in London. What are your intentions for the years to come?
Melinte: I think my intentions are less from a political standpoint but more about educating people about trans issues and to support people that are trans. I’m not necessarily interested in fighting politically but to increase understanding and give people a story that they can relate to, humanising the transgender experience and make it less of a big scary thing. If people can relate to it on a human level then maybe they will start changing how they behave towards other people and their ideas about trans issues.
Finally, can you tell me what are the next steps for the film? Lucy, where are upcoming places where you’ll be performing?
Melinte: My dream is that it reaches as many people as possible and that they get a deeper understanding of this whole concept. My dream is that we get accepted into more festivals, especially one LGBT festival in LA called Outfest.
Lucy: I perform every Saturday night at Savage. It’s a queer club night started by the people behind Sink the Pink in an East London strip cub. We're going to be taking the party to Ibiza this summer, taking over one of the rooms at Glitterbox once a month, and another sold out Sink the Pink Ball.
A special thanks to the Glory London for hosting the interview. 
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