Metro Weekly

Flying with One Wing

Reel Affirmations 2003

Tani Tatuwen Piyabanna

Review by Sean Bugg

Rating: starstarstarstarstar (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Tuesday, 10/21/2003, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
Cinghalese with English subtitles

Flying With One WingEARLY IN Flying with One Wing, the unnamed mechanic sits across a desk from the doctor who has discovered his secret, that he is a woman who has been living as a man.

“Who are you trying to fool?” the doctor asks.

“Myself,” he replies.

He has, in fact, been living in what he calls a “dream” since childhood. As an adult, he works as a auto mechanic and lives with his wife, whom he both dotes over and refuses to allow to leave their apartment. And after seeing how the women in their town are treated, you can’t blame him.

While a comparison to Boys Don’t Cry may seem apt, it doesn’t capture the full essence of this alternately uplifting and wrenching film. Censored in its native Sri Lanka for its depiction of a misogynistic culture and transsexual protagonist, Flying with One Wing soars with its story of simple humanity beset by hatred and fear.

After a minor car accident leaves him unconscious, the mechanic is rushed to a clinic by his best friend from work. The doctor, an abortionist weary of the endless march of women through his office, discovers his secret and becomes obsessed with him — the doctor wants a woman without the genitalia that disgust him.

As the secret leaks out, the mechanic finds his world shrinking around him. His wife loves him as a straight man. His best friend loves him as a gay man. The doctor loves him as a woman who’s not a woman. Soon he and his wife are facing the wrath of their neighborhood. His final act of bravery facing his tormentors paradoxically makes him more of a man than any of the males throwing stones at his apartment. It’s a striking and beautiful moment.

Striking images and motifs appear throughout the film, from the mechanic and his wife joyfully dancing in their apartment to a smiling little girl with a penciled-in mustache and beard on her face. Flying with One Wing will leave you feeling drained, angry and hopeful all at once, and stands as one of the most vital films of the festival.

Flying with One Wing
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Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.