The experience of being non-binary will be explored through four distinct, yet aligned, perspectives at the Mardi Gras Film Festival this Friday via indie feature Under My Skin.
The Australia/US co-production, to have its Australian premiere at the event, stars four non-binary actors in its ensemble cast, including local talent Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet, Bombshell) and Alex Russell (Chronicle, SWAT).
The story follows Denny, a free spirit and artist whose love for strait-laced lawyer Ryan is tested when they question gender.
The lead character is played by four different actors: Hewson, Bobbi Salvor Menuez (Euphoria, Nocturnal Animals), Lex Ryan, and Chloe Freeman. Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) also stars.
Shot in LA during 2019, the film premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London last October, where Hewson was nominated for Best Performance.
Under My Skin is the feature directorial debut of Australian writer-director David O’Donnell and is produced by Raynen O’Keefe, along with Russell.
There is also contributions from cinematographer Jacqueline Fitzgerald and composer Evelyn Ida Morris.
O’Donnell, who wrote and directed shorts Picture Wheel and Team Australia, tells IF the unorthodox narrative is entwined with the film’s thematic meaning.
“We were making a film that centres on a gender non-confirming character, so we wanted to explore to explore structures that were also non-conforming,” he says.
“More importantly, we wanted to show that being non-binary doesn’t look like one particular thing.
“This non-binary character is interpreted in different ways by these four different actors, who are all bringing their own experience to it.”
For Raynen, who also identifies as trans and non-binary, much of the strength of the film comes from the efforts that were made towards “clarifying, supporting, and re-centring trans voices and experience”.
“When we move towards greater trans and gender-diverse authorship, we move towards authenticity, belonging, and a valuing of the differences, similarities, and intricacies that make up trans experiences,” they said.
“The ensemble cast structure for Denny was a step in this direction, one that intuits a vast and often under-appreciated resource – that is the knowledge, expertise, and wisdom that is inseparable from lived experience.”
“Much can be said for the communities and individuals from which these stories arise, and have always arisen,”
Raynen added the ensemble of actors playing Denny felt “very intuitive”.
“The change points of actors are entirely redirections of internal compass for Denny,” they said
“Simultaneously, the ensemble cast brings a multitude of perspectives to the experience of being non-binary.”
Under My Skin will have its premiere on February 26 at the Mardi Gras Film Festival in Sydney.