Orlando, My Political Biography | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Bella, Nevan, Hollie & Theo

02 Jul 24

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Here are some Fresh Takes on  Orlando, My Political Biography. From acclaimed writer and activist Paul B. Preciado, Orlando, My Political Biography is a bold and joyous celebration of trans and non-binary lives, told through the lens of Virginia Woolf's iconic novel.

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Nevan, 25

Nevan Spier is a writer and art critic. You can find more of his work on his instagram at

Nevan says...

Paul B. Preciado is a Spanish philosopher known for his theoretical writing on gender and sexuality. His feature-length directorial debut, Orlando, My Political Biography, is an experimental visual essay that delves into experiences of gender transition inspired by Virginia Woolf's Orlando, first published in 1928, now propelled nearly 100 years into the future.

While an ensemble of trans and non-binary actors blend their biographical accounts with Orlando's fictional journey, Preciado's narration often directly responds to Woolf's text while highlighting how, in real life, trans people's right to bodily autonomy continues to be seized by institutions of power such as those of healthcare and the nation-state.

The film is at its most successful when it reads less like written theory and more like a visual tale told by symbols. At one point, a shot widens to reveal workers constructing the set our actor occupies, all the while his performance continues undisturbed. Preciado later interrupts a scene, breaking the illusion of authenticity as he instructs a line be delivered with a touch more poise. The artifice of filmmaking is delicately employed into a criticism of other deliberate constructions, pointedly the colonial notion of gender as binary and dictated by the anatomy one is born into.

Though sometimes verging on being too dense for those unfamiliar with Preciado's writing style, Orlando, My Political Biography ultimately strikes its takeaway note in a rather simple way: by envisioning trans liberation while celebrating trans lives in all our creativity, resilience, and indomitable joy.

Hollie Johnston, 23

Hollie is a recent graduate of French and English Literature, with a particular passion for films across all genres!

Hollie says…

Paul B. Preciado's Orlando, My Political Biography serves as a semi-biographical, queer reinterpretation of Virginia Woolf's 1928 Orlando: A Biography. More theoretical than plot driven, Preciado's film dips in and out of vignettes of the lives of transgender and non-binary youths, detailing their lived experience as well as their understanding of and relationship to Woolf's original Orlando.

That being said, one of the great things about Preciado's storytelling in this film is that the watcher does not necessarily need in-depth knowledge of the original text to be completely swept up by its 2024 trans reproduction. Whilst of course there's an explicit reverence to the 1928 novel, by centering the experiences of transgender and non-binary individuals, Preciado's Orlando becomes its own manifesto of visibility and acceptance – inspired by, yet also adjacent to, the original. A beautiful thread of fluidity is maintained through the course of its 98-minute screen time. Storylines of the original text merge with Preciado's own sultry narrative voice, as well as interview-style discussions with trans youth, or poignant inserts of LGBTQ+ history. It's an amalgamation of different textures of queer life – fluid by nature, but also given the space to exist as such within this cinematic universe.

Thought-provoking, celebratory and colourful, Orlando, My Political Biography is a triumph of queer cinema, blending literary homage with contemporary activism. It's a film that not only celebrates the enduring relevance of Woolf's work but also pushes the boundaries of representation in cinema. Preciado's vision is bold and exhilarant – utterly essential viewing.

Theo, 25

Theo is a London-based archivist and filmmaker.

Theo says...

"Life is not at all like a biography," we're told by the first of the many Orlandos we're about to meet. Rather, it "consists in the metamorphosis of oneself … becoming not only other but others." There's hardly a better way to describe Paul B. Preciado's wonderful new film than that.

The title is Orlando, My Political Biography, though in truth at least two of those words could be deleted — Preciado ditches the traditional biographical form, as well as the sense that this is only "his" story to tell. Instead, by ripping open biography via a shared relationship with a sacred queer text, Virginia Woolf's Orlando, his film is able to represent trans people as individuals and as part of a community, the experiences that differentiate us and bring us together.

It's a formally promiscuous film, sliding between documentary and fiction, and often inhabiting the space in between. Likewise, the text flows between the voices of Woolf, Preciado, and his subjects in an entirely fluid manner. Throughout, we're allowed to see the film crew at work, the seams of the creative sets — a celebration, perhaps, of the shared artifice of creating a film and constructing a self.

Not all of it works — an interlude featuring an anti-psychiatry musical number is a bit on-the-nose — but that's what's risked by any film as sincere and politically direct as this one. For the most part, Orlando is a delight, witty and intelligent and hugely hopeful in an uncertain political moment.

Bella, 19

Bella is a film enthusiast who has a love for the exploration of human perspective in film. She has autism and dreams of becoming a professional film critic. She spends her time watching and reviewing new films. Read more of her reviews here.

Bella says...

In Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams' John Keating asks his class: "The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" Director Paul B. Preciado chose to forge his verse in the watercolours of literature, and in a scream of rebellion. Orlando, My Political Biography is a spiritual experience; it breathes with you like a rousing chorus. Throughout my viewing, it was clear to see that a love letter was being told – a love letter to the destruction of the binary.

With twenty actors playing the titular Orlando, a blend of their life experiences and Virginia's Woolf's novel is produced. As the actors sit donning modern clothes (accessorised by an aristocratic ruff or chain mail) a sense of liberation bursts forth, and it's joyous to witness the vitality that these trans and non-binary actors possess. The film itself rejects the traditional structure of sequence after sequence of heavy dialogue and conventional performances, flowing from interviews to theatre-like performances, and even to a musical number. As a lover of poetry, I was left in raptures at the script's musicality. It is the film's greatest asset and will wrench any deep-rooted writer's block from a creative's hands.

With a myriad of topics being raised, from gender ideology, to feminism, to colonialism, Preciado's film is a sonnet to our changing times. To sum up my thoughts, I shall quote the film itself: "You're like nothing I've ever met before. And that's why I love you."

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