The world often forces us to choose between limited options. However, these phrases often limit our power to understand our world. Modern society may find the world earlier to understand with limited schema, but it also causes alienationation in loneliness among our cultures. In the case of physical sex, male and female anatomy allows for seemingly straightforward descriptors. Yet this ignores many other identities, including those intersex individuals born with both genitalia. The documentary Who I Am Not seeks to examine the effects of binary options on a non-binary world. Following two intersex individuals in South Africa. Along their journey, director Tünde Skovrán observes the difficult task of understanding the self in a world unwilling to adapt.
A young beauty queen, Sharon-Rose Khumalo discovers she is an intersex individual. She struggles to reframe her life and understand who she’s always been. She eventually meets Dimakatso Sebidi, a male presenting activist fighting to keep intersex issues in the spotlight. They have a stronger understanding of intersex life. Yet they find conflict at home when discussing their parent’s choices in handling their intersex birth. Together, Khumalo and Sebidi attempt to navigate the emotional landmines of their lives.
From the get-go, Skovrán showcases the ability to capture unique images with her subjects. Unlike other documentaries, Skovrán works with her subjects to allow more artistic images and flourishes into the film. None are more powerful than the dream sequence reenactments, often involving characters swimming through water and feeling out their fluidity. These moments are meant to help her subjects handle the difficulty of their lives through stress relief and continued therapy.
Both intersex individuals approach news from their doctors in very different ways. They allow Skovrán in the room for these discussions, often resulting in extremely frank conversations. The straightforward nature of these discussions allows the audience to fully understand the uniqueness of each intersex person’s situation. The importance of the knowledge we obtain from simply observing these moments cannot be understated. This allows Who I Am Not to not only work as an emotional study of people, but as an educational tool as well. The combination of the two makes it an incredible empathy generator.
Skovrán’s direction establishes an important tone early on. It’s a serious approach to the challenges faced by intersex individuals, and Skovrán captures it all with unflinching honesty. Khumalo & Sebidi show extreme bravery to get out in front of the camera and open up their lives. Yet when you create a work of art as special and important as Who I Am Not, it’s all worth it.