While the 2014 image+nation film festival may come to an end on Sunday, November 30, it certainly will not go without a bang. The final screening will be Julien Cadieux’s Guilda: Elle est bien dans ma peau, a touching documentary about the transvestite singing legend of the same name. Containing interviews with the late performer, the film explores the interesting relationship between Guilda, the famous performing woman and Jean Guida, the man who brought her to life.
Jean Guida was born in 1924 in Paris. As his sister, Christiane Arnaud, says in the French-language film, “He had a very different life from us.” She is, of course, referring to her brother’s early penchant for women’s clothing, make-up and song and dance, as well as his eventual creation of Guilda. The film, and Jean himself, makes it very clear that while Guilda and Jean may have legally and technically inhabited the same body, they were two different people. In fact, throughout the film Jean continually refers to Guilda in the third person, with remarks such as, “She made me a lot of money and gave me a good life I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” This is a rather interesting way for a male transvestite to refer to his female self; Guilda was not just an identity or alter-ego for Jean, but instead another person within himself. Director Julien Cadieux himself even admits that Jean’s referrals towards Guilda in the third person took him by surprise. “I was surprised by the third person and I know viewers are often confused about it at first, but then they begin to understand about Jean and Guilda.”
The documentary is clearly a labour of love. Cadieux, originally from New Brunswick, began the film while still studying film at Concordia as a personal project, before graduating in 2011. He was not “super interested” in the subject when he started the film, but in time, he came to be. “I knew the name [Guilda] and was mildly interested in the subject, but it wasn’t until doing the research and interviews with Jean that I realized I had found an incredible person.” The film offers a unique and very touching look into the life of Guilda, with interviews with his sister, his daughter, many of his friends and Jean himself. You can feel the love all those who were close to him (and her) feel and that is what truly makes this a standout documentary. As Cadieux says, “There’s a lot of love in that family.”
Unfortunately, Jean Guida will never see the film about himself and his beloved Guilda as he passed away in 2012 before it was finished filming. You can see the wonderfully colourful Guilda: Elle est bien dans ma peau, however, at the 27th image+nation film festival’s closing night on Sunday, November 30, and I strongly urge that you do so.
Guilda: Elle est bien dans ma peau will be playing at the Imperial Cinema at 8:00pm on Sunday, November 30. For tickets, please visit image+nation’s website.