Taika Waititi’s new film ‘Next Goal Wins’ is drawing flak following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for alleged “transphobia.”
Waititi’s sports biographical film has been deemed as “transphobic” by some, with Charles Bramesco of The Playlist going so far as claiming that the character of Jaiyah Saelua, a fa’afafine (third gender), was “not treated with respect by the characters or the movie itself.”
Bramesco wrote, “Secret weapon Jaiyah (the mononymous, non-binary, altogether transfixing Kaimana) initially baffles Thomas with her gender identity of fa’afafine, taken for granted in the Pacific as an important piece of the local cultural heritage.”
The film was based on the documentary of the same name. It follows the American Samoa national football team which was considered one of the worst in the world trying to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The biopic was initially praised for having the nonbinary actor Kaimana play the fictional version of Saelua.
Bramesco added in his review that Thomas Rongen (played by Michael Fassbender) deadnamed the trans character to “motivate her during practice. Then, after she knocks him out, she’s sent on the high road of apology to him for a reconciliatory heart-to-heart in which she smiles through an invasive inquiry about her genitals. The movie’s emotional climax uses her transition with a vulgar blatancy of purpose, just so Thomas can give her the pep talk that instantly dissolves her dysphoria.”