Byun Sung-bin’s film follows the story of a trans dancer reconnecting with her roots 


As we gear up towards the Scottish Queer Independent Film Festival (SQIFF), we took a look at one of the films on this year’s programme. Peafowl will be showing on Friday 29 September at the CCA Theatre at 9 pm. 

You’re in the finals of a Waacker contest. The prize money is $10,000 – the amount you need for your gender reassignment surgery. You dance like your life depends on it. And yet, you fall short of the trophy. Moments later, you’re told you need to return to your hometown because your father has died. 

That’s how Korean writer and director Byun Sung-bin’s Peafowl begins. The film follows the story of Waacker dancer Myung (Choi Hae-jun) who is forced to return to her small countryside town of Hochang following her father’s death. Myung hasn’t been home in many years, and it’s clear why once she arrives. Though her peers greet her with kindness, the elders refuse to accept her gender identity. What ensues is a heartfelt tale of identity, gender, love, and family. 

Peafowl surprises throughout with new revelations in the plot, demonstrating the layers of intergenerational LGBTQIA trauma in this small countryside town. The central characters of Myung and Woogi (Hwang Jeong-min) are compelling and act alongside a whole host of interesting and layered supporting characters. 

Once Myung has arrived home, Woogi tells her that it was her father’s wish that she perform his funeral ceremony. After her loss at the Waacker contest, Myung uses the music of her home village to find her style and her “colour”. It is especially beautiful to see the glitz and glamour of Myung’s outfits against the backdrop of rural Korea. In flashes of neon pink and glitter, Myung seems to find a way to blend two parts of her life together. 

Too often we see stories about trans women that end in despair. While Myung faces transphobia from her uncle, this is a story which is ultimately about the power of being your authentic self. Against all adversity, Myung never stops dancing. Never stops wearing her brightly coloured clothes. Never bows down to the pressure to conform. It is truly a story of strength. 

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