‘Into My Name’ (‘Nel Mio Nome’): Film Review | Berlin 2022

Executive produced by Elliot Page, Nicolò Bassetti’s documentary follows four close friends through their gender transition.

Nicolò Bassetti’s tender documentary Into My Name is about searching, although not in a trite way. The four Italian transmasculine subjects, whose experiences with gender transition guide this project, are interested in exploring the constricting boundaries of gender so that they may, with a steady fierceness, obliterate them.

“What I’m going to ask you is not to tell me how you found out you were trans or why you were trans as a kid,” says Leo, one of the protagonists, to Nico in the doc’s opening moments. “Because those are good questions for those who think male and female are impenetrable limits, like the pillars of Hercules or the force of gravity. I’m not interested in any of that.”

Into My Name (Nel Mio Nome)

The Bottom Line

Tender and poetic.

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama)
Director-screenwriter: Nicolò Bassetti

1 hour 33 minutes

What Leo, and his three close friends, Nico, Andrea and Raff, are more curious about are the vivid details. What tastes and smells do memories of their past conjure? What pleasures do they indulge in? How do they pass the hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in a month? What do they dream about? What makes them laugh? Cry? Smile? And what do these specifics, when gathered and assembled, reveal about themselves and each other?

Into My Name is roughly structured around a podcast Leo records about his friends’ lives. He begins by asking Nico, who, according to press notes, is the eldest person but the newest to the group, to talk about his upbringing. As Nico recounts parts of his past, the film presents footage of the Italian countryside. By initially withholding shots of the mens’ faces, Bassetti jolts viewers out of passivity. Pay attention to the words, the opening sequence seems to shout. Listen to these voices.

The images Nico conjures are vivid and sweet: He grew up in a house isolated from others but surrounded by a large garden. He loved to climb trees and developed a fond relationship with them. “They were like another set of parents to me,” he says at one point.

The idea for this poetic and sincere inquiry was born of Bassetti’s personal experiences. Four years ago, the director’s son (assigned female at birth) wrote him a letter announcing that “he had decided to leave the shore of female identity.” The note, delivered at night, asked for trust and understanding. Supporting his son’s transition inspired Bassetti to make this documentary, which was executive produced by Elliot Page. When the director presented the idea of the film to his son, the latter approved only if his father did not insert himself into the narrative.

The footprints of this careful process are all over Into My Name, which paints gorgeous portraits of these men and yet maintains a distance via its cinematography. Andrea is a writer, working on a collection of short stories. He speaks affectionately about his fire-truck red typewriter. It has served as a companion over the years, enabling him to document and make sense of his experiences. Raff works as a mechanic at a bike repair shop. During the film, he steadily builds his dream bike. He speaks precisely, and with a similar fondness as Andrea, about the parts of this vehicle, especially when choosing the color. Color, he argues throughout the doc, signals much about a person’s desires and identity to the world. And then there’s Leo, who shepherds us through everyone’s experiences. He is most interested in storytelling, documentation, theory and love.

Into My Name follows the four as they transition, but takes a holistic look at the process. It does not only focus on the medical aspect of coming into one’s identity; it explores the emotional parts, too. Bassetti mixes warm clips of the four friends reminiscing about their pasts and dreaming about their futures with cold, detached ones of them scheduling appointments with doctors and undergoing in-office evaluations. The effect is haunting, an indictment of society’s mistrust of individuals who have, arguably, achieved more self-knowledge and awareness than most of us.

Bassetti is noticeably cautious when filming the quartet. The camera rarely closes in on their faces and it never indulges in any kind of voyeurism. It’s an understandable choice for the director, who, despite his proximity, is still an outsider to this experience.

But there are times — subtle, fleeting — when he does assume a more intimate register, and the doc pulsates with a different energy. In these moments, like when the friends huddle over drinks at a bar, enveloped by the establishment’s cheap lights, or when Leo gifts his friends bottles of a peppermint oil concoction to stimulate facial hair growth, the film achieves its goal of melding the men’s specific experiences with a broader coming-of-age narrative.

Into My Name is an achievement. To say that it sheds light on an experience few understand would only cheapen Bassetti’s work and diminish the stories Nico, Leo, Andrea and Raff share. Their journey isn’t only about illumination for viewers; it’s about them, and their own discovery of self.

Full credits

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Panorama)
Production companies: Nuovi Paesaggi Urbani, Art of Panic
Cast: Leonardo Arpino, Nicolò Sproccati, Raffaele Baldo, Andrea Ragno
Director-screenwriter: Nicolò Bassetti
Producers: Nicolò Bassetti, Lucia Nicolai, Marcello Paolillo
Executive producers: Elliot Page, Gaia Morrione
Cinematographer: Nicolò Bassetti
Editor: Desideria Rayner
Composer: Stefano Grosso
Sales: Cinephil

In Italian

1 hour 33 minutes