email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest


Soňa G Lutherová • Director of A Happy Man

“There is a responsibility that comes with making a film like this”


- The Slovak director delivers a story about a family facing a change – together

Soňa G Lutherová • Director of A Happy Man
(© Tomáš Benedikovič)

After coming out as trans, Marvin finally seems like A Happy Man [+see also:
film review
interview: Soňa G Lutherová
film profile
. With his husband, Ivan, they decide to stay together and continue raising their kids. But things are bound to be different, even despite their bond. Director Soňa G Lutherová unpacks her Hot Docs-screened documentary.

Cineuropa: Marvin is transitioning, but your film is also about a couple – about two people trying to love each other despite a massive, life-altering change.
Soňa G Lutherová:
You know what? That’s exactly what interested me. We have known each other for quite some time; we met in 2008 at the airport, by complete chance. I was going to Stockholm with my now-husband, and they were moving to Sweden. This perfectly average, normal-looking couple. We became friends and started to have kids. Marvin came out in 2017, which at first was quite surprising to me, a cis-gender person living in a heteronormative relationship. At the same time, I realised we are all constantly changing. I am different as a mother, as a filmmaker and as an anthropologist. This is something we can all relate to, I guess.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

It feels like, apart from Marvin, no one – including his husband – feels too comfortable discussing it. Was it hard to convince people around him to do that?
It was a challenge for Marvin, too. This story started with his transition, so of course, I asked him first, but Ivan had to be on board as well. And he was, from the very beginning. He is a very particular guy, but I think he actually enjoyed it! For Marvin, it was a chance to take control of his story. When you are transitioning, you become dependent on others: there are so many gatekeepers deciding what will happen to you and your body. There were no boundaries, basically, although we often talked about the message of this film. He knew what my perspective was on things and that we wouldn’t be confronting his kids.

Stories about transition can be full of pain. But this film is so warm!
It’s true – they aren’t so rare any more, but they can be quite tragic. It’s a difficult situation, but I think it’s necessary to show the audience that trans people are just like anyone else: they have to take care of their children, they have their own struggles and their routines. When we started, Marvin already knew he wanted to transition; there weren’t any doubts. This decision wasn’t made lightly, but it was necessary. I wanted to underline that.

There is something very practical about this couple’s approach and their hopes for the future. They know it might not work out in the end.
Whenever I asked them an intimate question, like when I asked Marvin about their sex life, I kept it in the film. He is reacting to something I said and not just talking about these things on his own. Trans characters are often sexualised, and everything else is just pushed to one side. But it can be so reductive. Family, relationships – these things can be so much more complex, not to mention that everyone understands them. I hope this film will make the audience think about what it means to have a partner, to be a parent.

Why the decision to have Marvin record short videos on his own? Was it because you simply couldn’t enter some spaces?
It started right after the operation. I would never have shot the procedure itself – to me, it would have put too much emphasis on the body. But we went to Malmö together, and I walked him to the hospital, which you don’t see in the film. I did it as a friend, not as a filmmaker. Later, he sent me this video, on his own, and it made me very emotional. It’s so powerful in its spontaneity. Then he continued to do it, whenever he felt like sharing something. Like when he had to shave for the first time.

Did you always know when to step aside? It can be trickier when you actually know the person.
We talked about it a lot. As an anthropologist, I think a lot about how I position myself in the story. Am I crossing any boundaries? Whose voice are we listening to? Marvin and Ivan are pragmatic people. They see things very clearly. I think sometimes I was being more careful than they were! There is a responsibility that comes with making a film like this, about a topic that’s still controversial in Central Europe. Even more so today.

You don’t really show any nasty reactions to Marvin.
It was shot in Brno [Czech Republic], and they were a bit anxious, but in the end, it went well. I don’t know how it would have been in Slovakia. Maybe the same? When we started, the situation was different. Now, these discussions can get very heated. If someone is strictly against it, I don’t think I can change their mind. But maybe I can convince the ones in the middle? We wanted to depoliticise it: it’s a simple family story. A love story, even though we don’t know how it will end. Then again, it has already ended well, in a way, because of the respectful way they are facing it all together.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

See also

Privacy Policy