Shelter, a portrait in transit(ion): gender and migration

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The documentary Shelter - A Farewell to Eden ​​(Italy, 2019, directed by Enrico Masi) ​​presents a poetic portrait of Pepsi, a Philippine transexual refugee who lives between France and Italy. The portrait of Pepsi is set over the background of a wider landscape, as the film retraces the migratory routes she has taken, and that many other migrants had followed. Pepsi is in a position of double transition: a geographical and a social one. The first one is defined by her story of migration and seeking asylum. The second one concerns gender, given that she has started sex reassignment therapy, but, at the moment of filming, she had interrupted it, due to circumstances that the film doesn’t disclose. This chapter analyses how this particular story provides a narrative to think about the intersection of class, gender and nationality in the definition of one’s own identity. By undertaking an intersectional critique, this chapter aims at discussing how the film’s aesthetics incorporate the transit(ion) of Pepsi, giving depth to the narrative and representations of Pepsi and other migrants. Three artistic choices will be analysed in detail: the composition of the portrait of Pepsi, always preserving her anonymity; the way landscapes are filmed with the camera going through the territory; and the organic construction of the film around a hybridization of formats (16mm, 2K, DV, and archival footage of different natures). The chapter further demonstrates how the director bypasses the problems of representation of queer migrant narratives in documentary filmmaking, by involving Pepsi in the definition of the narrative and in the creation of the film. Enrico Masi creates a platform for Pepsi to act on the performativity of her identity, a form of agency that creates its own condition of reality independent of hegemonic structures of power (Butler, 1990/2017).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiminality, transgression and space across the world
Subtitle of host publicationbeing, living and becoming(s) against, across and with borders and boundaries
EditorsBasak Tanulku, Simone Pekelsma
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781032408033
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2024


  • Refugees
  • Intersectionality
  • Hybridization of formats
  • Politics of representation
  • Performativity


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