Seven years ago, Kani Lapuerta began working on his first feature-length documentary “Ninxs.” About Karla, a 14-year-old trans girl who lives in Mexico living in a binary society, the project garnered the IDFA Forum Award for Best Pitch at the 35th edition of the Amsterdam-based documentary festival on Nov. 15.
Produced by Mexico’s La Sandía Digital Producción Audiovisual and Germany’s Jyoti Film and Dirk Manthey Film, “Ninxs,” which is the gender-inclusive and non-binary version of the word niños (children), is in the early editing stages.
More from Variety
Lapuerta said that he set out to make the docu to show audiences that there is more to trans people than being trans.
“This is a coming-of-age film that is dealing with many topics like memory, friendship and love,” Lapuerta says. “For me, the important thing is that the audience can identify themselves with Karla through these topics and not because she’s trans or she’s not trans.”
Lapuerta’s “Ninxs” was previously invited to participate in IDFA’s Project Space workshop and received funding via the festival’s Bertha Fund.
Variety spoke with Lapuerta, who is trans, about finishing “Ninxs,” what helped him win the Pitch Forum and how he plans to make the project accessible to young people.
How did you meet Karla?
She’s the daughter of some friends that I’ve known for many years. So, I’ve known her since she was very, very small.
Did it take a lot of convincing to get her to go in front of the camera?
We started shooting seven years ago when she was seven. At the beginning it was more like a game. I wasn’t thinking about making a movie, I was just exploring. But as time went by, I found out that I was making a movie, so, it just kind of happened.
Where do things currently stand with the project?
We are now gathering all the materials from the past seven years and starting to find the structure of the movie. So, we are seeing where the gaps are in the story and what things we still have to shoot. Also, we are writing a script and shooting at the same time.
You are a subject in the film. Why?
The film has different narrative devices. One is all the observational material we have from the past seven years. Another is conversations between Karla and me that gives (the doc) structure. These moments go deeper into the topics that are central to the film.
How did you prepare the Forum’s Pitch?
English is not our mother tongue, so it was more difficult to express ourselves. We practiced a lot to make sure the main points we wanted to share with the audience (were conveyed).
You were among 22 documentary projects selected for the Pitch. What do you think made your pitch stand out?
We used a lot of humor, which is part of the style of the movie. We tried to make the pitch a little bit like standup comedy. There are many beautiful projects in the Forum, but sometimes the documentary projects treat the scenes very seriously. The way we work at my production company is to find other narrative ways to tell stories of resistance and resilience.
In the description of “Ninxs” it states that the film will be 75 minutes in length. Is that an estimate or will it be 75 minutes?
No. We have planned two versions. One 75 minute version for festivals and so on. And then a version for television. We are also working to make shorter episodes because this is also content for kids, younger audiences. We are aware that 75 minutes may not be easy for that audience, so we are searching for other formats.
You received a cash prize of €1,500 from IDFA for winning the Pitch Forum. Will that money go toward finishing “Ninxs”?
It’s not a lot of money, but in Mexico it is (a good amount). So, the next shoot we do we will use this money.
Is the goal to get into the competition section of IDFA 2023?
Yes. That would be our dream.
Best of Variety