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BERLIN 2019 Forum

Review: So Pretty


- BERLIN 2019: Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli directs and stars in a romantic drama about members of a transgender community dedicated to free love

Review: So Pretty

The Brooklyn-born director, editor, critic and transgender actress, Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli presented her second feature film in the Forum section at the 69th Berlin Film Festival. So Pretty [+see also:
film profile
is a free adaptation of a novel-screenplay entitled And when the prince danced with the coachman, they were so pretty that the whole court swooned. A utopian film by the German author Ronald M. Schernikau. The original text was conceived as a draft for the comic book that Schernikau intended to write with the Berlin artist Thomas Schulz. Unfortunately, the project was never completed. But decades later, Dunn Rovinelli rediscovered the text, which had great film potential, and turned it into the screenplay for her excellent meta-theatrical film about love in the 21st century.

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Schernikau's semi-biographical romantic drama, which took place in West Berlin in the 1980s, is moved to present-day New York in 2018. But this is not the only major change that the anti-academic adaptation has undergone. The protagonist is no longer called Tonio, but Tonia. The two polyamorous gay couples in the book are now members of a small transgender community, and the homosexual exploration and liberation that formed the basis of the original text have been replaced by a more modern battle: the eradication of the binary division of human gender.

Tonia (Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli) is a German transgender artist who travels to New York to prepare for an exhibition on the legacy of Ronald M. Schernikau. The other big reason for her trip is to see her American boyfriend, Franz (Thomas Love) with whom she is in a long-distance relationship. Upon her arrival, Tonia is welcomed into the strange, queer polyamorous community her partner belongs to. There she meets a set of new New York friends and lovers: Helmut (Phoebe DeGroot), Gera (Arlene Gregoire), Paul (Edem Dela-Seshie) and Erika (Rachika Samarth).

This fiction feature, shot in Super16mm, is a collection of scenes from the everyday lives shared by this particular community. Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli offers a generational portrait of the transgender youth of today by capturing moments, both fleeting and eternal, of her walks, conversations, breakfasts, sexual experiences, nightly evasion in clubs and participation in political and LGTBI+ collective demonstrations. 

This anthology collection about a particular community – which is almost documentary-like in style – alternates with passages read aloud from Schernikau's novel, whose content coincides with the crises and revelations that the protagonists experience while embracing free love.

So Pretty was produced by the American company 100 Year Films, together with the French company Les Films du Bal.

(Translated from Spanish)

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