Ni Aquí/Ni Allá (Nor Here Nor There)
Director: Ley Comas
2021 | USA, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica | 15m | Spanish
Centering on a conversation with their mother, filmmaker Ley Comas charts their struggle to find a middle ground between them and their family with respect to their gender identity.
Starring: Ydalia Comas, Ley Comas, Bryan Ortega-Comas, Loida Ortega-Comas
Playing in shorts program: Stand Up, Be Heard
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Ley Comas (they/them) is Afro-Latinx, born in Costa Rica and raised in the Dominican Republic. They migrated to the U.S. in 2013, and went on to receive their B.A. in Cinema and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and their M.F.A. in Documentary Filmmaking.
Ley is a production sound mixer by trade. They have worked for brands such as adidas, Uber, Pantene, Vans, and recurring projects with Refinery29 since 2018. Ley has also worked as production sound for feature documentaries and episodic content including featuring in major film festivals and streaming platforms.
As a non-binary filmmaker, Ley’s work is grounded in collaborating on and creating films that highlight and empower the narratives of underrepresented and erased identities. Ley currently lives in the Bronx; they enjoy bike riding, cooking, and spending time with their cat.
I was raised in an evangelical household. My parents are pastors, my two siblings and I grew up in church. My parents taught me that the body is the temple of God and that we were created in his image and likeness. Growing up in the DR looking through that religious lens in which I was raised, the social perception and the media representation of the trans community made me think that a sane person could not transition. I understood that the only way to survive was to stay in the closet and keep praying for a miracle. Not being my true self became unsustainable. As a child I didn’t have the words or the safety to exist as myself, as an adult I began the physical and psychological quest of becoming me. Now, my identity as a trans non-binary queer person is fundamental to who I am and how I show up in spaces. My parents expected me to grow up and become part of the ministry; instead, I became a filmmaker. I don’t know of anything that moves me more than putting stories like mine into film.
Most of my past film reflects on my search for identity, my look for a place to fit in the world. I´m now openly a trans non-binary person. Being out and keeping a close relationship with my family seems like a complete oxymoron. Transition doesn’t only affect me, it also has a huge impact on the people that I have been surrounded by, especially the person that has seen me since day one. Despite my mother´s beliefs and her opposition in recognizing me as the person I am, I can see her love and care. I also see in her the fear of what people would say; the reflection of a society that has failed to deconstruct a negative perception of the LGBTQ+ community, especially for trans folks. I made this film because I think in order to change this view we need to engage in honest and sometimes hurtful conversations. She believes this is a choice, without considering that the person I was before was not my choice, but the circumstances imposed on me. My existence has become political and I make film as a way of resistance.
Ni Aqui/Ni Alla was a journey within a journey. Making and editing this film allowed me to see my mother more as her own individual person, while also allowing the space to show me, as the individual I am now. Through the process I changed, our relationship changed. As a filmmaker my ultimate goal is to transport the viewer into this intimate space to question preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. This film is a portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, queerness, and a challenge to conventional narratives of the trans community.