It was director Jack Goessens’ own experience as a trans man that inspired his feature debut, “Boifriend.” “The story is based on my personal journey as a trans man figuring out my identity. When I started my transition, I was often asked: ‘How do you know? And how did you get to that conclusion?’ And I thought this was interesting because trans films usually start from the beginning point of the transition and don’t often talk about how trans people figured out they were trans.”
One of 20 projects selected at this year’s CineMart — the co-production market at the International Film Festival Rotterdam — “Boifriend” tells the story of Tegan, a “fresh-faced lesbian plagued by disturbing visions of dysphoria and euphoria” as “she starts to question her identity and place in the community.” The film is described by Goessens as “a character-driven, coming-of-age story exploring the feelings of gender dysphoria and euphoria.”
Goessens is a Dutch filmmaker currently living in Scotland. His latest short film, 2021’s “Everyman,” was commissioned through the Scottish Documentary Institute. Goessens also worked as an editor in shows such as “Outlander” and Netflix’s “The Fuck It Bucket.” This experience, he says, has granted him the confidence to leap onto feature filmmaking. “The short films I made have been a good practice because I’ve been exploring the same themes. I have also been working as an editor on long-form, which has been great learning as a director and I plan to lean on that experience for my first feature.”
“Boifriend” is produced by Reece Cargan of U.K.-based production company Bombito Productions. Commenting on their experience in Rotterdam, Cargan pointed out that, “something we’ve been hearing in a lot of meetings while at CineMart is that Jack’s story finishes at the point where most trans stories start.”
This refers to the fact “Boifriend” focuses on the moment of realization of a trans identity instead of the moment of transition itself. “The idea came to me one day because I was speaking to my parents about how I didn’t used to recognize myself in the mirror because I thought I was a different person,” said Goessens. “They didn’t know I felt that way. And that struck a chord because people who don’t have trans feelings could really resonate with it.”
The filmmaker emphasizes “not all trans people experience dysphoria,” but goes on to say it is a feeling he has personally experienced. “The way I tell it in the film seems a good way to communicate what that feels like, or at least what it felt like to me,” he adds.
“It’s interesting because I feel that, within the larger U.K., Scotland feels at the forefront of a positive trans movement and I try to focus on that,” Goessens pointed out when speaking on the current British political climate when it comes to trans issues. “I do worry but I am hoping that maybe through my work I can make a positive change. There are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily anti-trans, but are maybe getting the wrong information or, sometimes, no information at all. I am hoping the film will offer some nuance and not be off-putting. That is very aspirational, hoping to make a bit of change, but this being a Scottish project, I hope there is an openness to listen.”
Goessens also said bringing the project to Rotterdam felt like a natural choice, since “Holland has always been known as a liberal country,” with Cargan adding, “it was an intentional choice to bring the project to Rotterdam. We were looking for labs that suited ‘Boifriend’ and Jack is a walking co-production, being Dutch and living in Scotland, so it felt like a natural fit and the timing was great because the treatment is now ready.”