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Kinobalon at City of Women, October 7 2023

Gabi, between ages 8 and 13 Gabi, 8 till 13 år

Engeli Broberg / Sweden, Norway, Denmark / 2021 / 78 min / Slovene subtitles, Swedish, English / 12+

"Everyone thinks I'm trying to be a boy but I’m not. I can't, I can only be Gabi.”

At 8 years old, Gabi is a lively kid who feels that she is different from other girls. She loves to speak her mind when it comes to what she thinks is wrong with the world, and in particular, how there should be no differences between boys and girls. Gabis' full name is Gabriella Jude Fletcher but she would rather be named something cool like Brad, Mike - or Paulo, like her biological father. She thinks about him a lot but her mother refuses to talk about him. 
 
Gabi’s mother Tracy is from England and in a relationship with Thomas. When Gabi is 10 Thomas loses his job and with Stockholm being expensive, the family moves to a small working class town. Gabi feels lonely and to fit in at school she starts agreeing with the others, even  when she doesn’t. With no friends she stays home a lot, playing video games. At the same time she is pushing puberty. Her body changing scares her, will it hurt? Not to mention the M-word, menstruation. 

Finally! After discussing it for years Gabi gets to cut her hair really short at 12. It makes her feel like a different person - more like Gabi. But the climate in school is still harsh. She’s found a friend, Jassin, but eople are calling each other names like faggot and pussy. There are rumors of someone being gay in the ninth grade. Gabi doesn’t know if it’s true, and even if it is, it doesn’t matter because they are hiding it well. 

Starting in the sixth grade, something has changed. She doesn’t feel like an outsider anymore. Two days before her 13th birthday Gabi gets her period. It is not as scary as she imagined. It’s more of a relief, as in not being the first or the last person to get it. Everyone in school is talking obsessively about their crushes. Gabi is in love too. But that is a secret. There is no way that she can approach her love interest. No way. At the same time she can’t relate fully to the norm for how a girl should be. “Does this make me a boy?” she asks herself when reading online about gender reassignment surgery. 

Gabi captures the rarely documented pre- teen years. A story about a person who struggles to find her place in the world during the most transformative period of life. It’s a film which challenges preconceptions of gender and norms. Showing the search for identity and underlining the human right to belong and to be who you are. 

Director’s statement 
The first time I met Gabi and her mother was in November 2014 at a café in Stockholm. Talking to her took me back to when I was a child, because she had the same kinds of thoughts and questions I had at her age: What is a girl and what is a boy? And do I really have to fit into these boxes? Being a lesbian myself, I identify with Gabi's feelings of being different from other kids and societal norms, how frightening it can be to acknowledge that difference, and the subsequent fear of not being accepted.

Most societies are built on the premise that there are two kinds of human beings, women and men. Being defined by our physical body affects our personalities, how we behave and our position in society. People who act outside this thought pattern, this norm, are regarded as different. An example is Gabi. She goes against the preconceived notions of how a girl should “be” and this leads to her having the constant need to defend herself, and her behavior. This harms her, and all other children who do not fit in. Children who identify as non-binary are often dismissed by adults as being too young to understand, or as going through a phase “they will grow out of.” When puberty begins for these children, the body starts to change in ways they may not have wished for, usually leading to discomfort and even depression. Studies show that more than half of all trans-or other non-binary identifying youth have attempted suicide at least once before turning 20. 

It is therefore urgent that we start to question the way we interpret gender; that we start to question the norm by which we are living. I want a world, which has been unnecessarily and painfully restricted, to be opened up, in full color. A world where gender is joyful for all to experience. 

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