A new short film touted as the first to star an openly intersex performer in an intersex role is due out later this year.
HuffPost got an exclusive sneak peek at “Ponyboi” via the trailer above. The film follows the titular character (played by River Gallo), an intersex Latino runaway who is employed at a laundromat by day, but who spends his nights as a sex worker while dreaming of escaping suburban New Jersey. A mysterious encounter with a handsome suitor, however, inspires Ponyboi to break free from his past and reassess his future.
“Ponyboi” began its life as Gallo’s master’s thesis project at the University of Southern California. Drawing on his personal experiences, the actor, writer and director told HuffPost he aimed to portray “the complex, painful, beautiful and magical experiences of being intersex” with the film, which will be screened later this year.
“Writing, directing and acting in my film is the first step to remove this cloak of invisibility that the intersex community has worn for too long,” Gallo said. “There is virtually no representation of intersex people in television and film.”
While being intersex is relatively common, there remains a surprising lack of awareness. Intersex people are defined as those whose biology does not meet society’s traditional definitions of sex and gender. Some estimates suggest that at least 1 in 2,000 children are born intersex, though some don’t discover those traits until puberty or later.
Gallo, 27, financed “Ponyboi” through an online fundraiser. This spring, the film gained Hollywood star power when Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry signed on as a co-producer and an executive producer, respectively.
Fry, praising Gallo’s screenplay as “sympathetic, romantic and charming,” said: “The film doesn’t ask for sympathy, bang drums, preach or lecture, but it reveals a fascinating story and characters that absolutely grip and intrigue.”
“This film is unique in its subject matter,” Fry added, “and I think it is a wonderful opportunity for us to put in a small amount to help achieve something new and important on a topic that I believe is of deep concern for anyone curious and passionate about what it is to be human.”
“Ponyboi” will be screened in New York and Los Angeles in December.