Taika Waititi has cast non-binary actor Kaimana as Jaiyah Saelua, the first non-binary player compete in a men’s FIFA World Cup qualifier, for the upcoming film Next Goal Wins.
Kaimana identifies as fa’afafine, which translates roughly to ‘in the manner of a woman’ from Samoan. Fa’afafine are assigned male at birth and express both masculine and feminine traits ‘in a way unique to Polynesia.’ Other phrases used to describe fa’afafine include non-binary or third gender. Approximately 1-5% of Samoans identify as such.
The character they are playing, Jaiyah Saelua, also identified as fa’afafine and became the first non-binary player to compete in a men’s World Cup qualifier in 2011. Saelua has since gone on to become and advocate for trans athletes.
This casting choice comes at a time when many films have taken heat for casting cisgender actors in trans roles (see: Rub and Tug). But according to Taika Waititi, a cis actor was never considered for the part. “There was no way we would have approached it in any other way,” he told Variety.
The decision to cost a non-binary actor for a non-binary part is a huge deal for a community that’s rarely seen on screen. The excitement in this blog post at Birth Movies Death is palpable:
The news of Kaimana’s casting being announced by Waititi himself, well before the film is finished, seems to indicate that Jaiyah Saelua will have a prominent role in the film that explicitly acknowledges their gender. […] We get to see a non-binary person portray a non-binary character, raising awareness of the gender diversity that exists beyond men and women. Even if you’re cisgender or binary transgender, that is a cause of excitement.
This will be Kaimana’s acting debut, and they will star alongside Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss, Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Beulah Koale, Lehi Falepapalangi, Semu Filipo, Uli Latukefu and Rachel House. Principal photography began on November 4th, 2019 and filming is currently underway on Oahu.
A documentary of the same name was released in 2014. The documentary won several awards, including the Special Jury Award as part of the Documentary Film Competition at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Best Documentary award at the British Independent Film Awards.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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