Tucked away, rejecting the norms of the outside world, lies the mesmerising Casa Roshell, a place where gender rules do not apply, and men can transform into women without being judged or discriminated against. Director Camila José Donoso’s eye-opening documentary tells their story.
The film takes an observational look inside the real Casa Roshell club in Mexico City, run by the vivacious Roshell Terranova. She provides a safe establishment where men can take on a whole new personality, teaching them how to walk, dress and talk properly, and carry themselves with confidence. For many of the men who frequent Casa Roshell, this is a refreshing escape from their difficult daily lives. Roshell offers them a home away from home, where they can express themselves fully and bond with other trans people. One club regular admits, “By the time I get dressed and made up, I’m so hot. But this is my reward, after working hard all week, when I stop being a man and I become Pina – at least in here.”
The feature begins slowly, documenting the meticulous stages of the transvestite transformation, as Roshell quietly applies her hair, makeup and costume in the mirror of a dressing room with some others. The closeness between the men becomes very noticeable and the film’s mood intensifies as the night begins. Behind the flashing disco lights, the loud music, the glamour and the cocktails, a sense of genuine community emerges.
Throughout the docmentary, gender roles and sexuality are openly discussed and analysed. During a conversation between two guests, the real social effect of Roshell’s creation becomes apparent. One man asks another why he comes to Casa Roshell rather than a strip club if he is heterosexual. He calmly replies that for him it is no different, because inside Casa Roshell these people are ladies, just like any other.
In an empowered speech later on, a crowd cheers as Roshell Terranova herself states, “When I got started, we had nothing! We were hardly allowed to exist. There were raids. It was a crime. We were generation X, but we were revolutionaries!”.
Set in a country often affected by violence against the transgender community, Donoso’s Casa Roshell depicts an important social commentary and is a candid, inspiring and insightful exploration of how different things could be if the outside world looked at masculinity and femininity in a new light.
Casa Roshell does not have a UK release date yet.
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