Caster Semenya inspires a film about gender-testing

Her army of fans are rallying around her ahead of next week’s hearing, as she takes her fight against world athletics governing body the IAAF’s proposed rule to restrict testosterone levels in female runners to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

And now, champion runner Caster Semenya has also inspired a film on the subject.

Called Measure of a Woman, the film has been nominated for an SA Film and Television Award for Best Short Film.

It was created by a formidable team of women, including award-winning director and producer Sara Blecher (Otelo Burning, Ayanda) and Spier Films producer Lwazi Manzi.

The film tells the story of Ntombi, a champion rower who is lesbian and has to face the challenges of what society deems a woman should look like. It has been modelled on Semenya’s story.

In the lead role is Mandisa Nduna, who, along with actress and writer Thishiwe Ziqubu, were the recent recipients of a Feather Award for Cutest Couple in Mzansi.

The film recalls the very public humiliation that Semenya had to face when her gender was questioned by rival athletes and the world’s media.

Caster Semenya

“It is not the Caster Semenya story. We wanted to tell the story of all women who have suffered gender discrimination,” said Manzi this week. “Caster was only one of the women who inspired us.”

Blecher said the story is about the challenges sportswomen encounter when they outperform in any category – a prejudice that is increased when the athlete is a black woman.

However, Nduna believes the film is relevant to women of all races. Chatting to City Press, she urged women to celebrate their strengths and ignore negative comments about their physiques.

“If you love what you do, focus on that. It is never about what people have to say because they will always talk. Block out the noise from society,” she said.

Manzi – who was an emergency-room medical doctor before becoming a film producer – said of Nduna: “Her talent and androgynous appearance made her a good choice for the role. She very much identified with the character and story.”

When contacted by City Press, Semenya did not have time for a long chat and said she had not heard of Measure of a Woman.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she said politely. Before hanging up, Semenya said she was “not really interested in movies”.

Manzi said audiences had been visibly moved by the film as it “offers a perspective of the LGBTI struggle that most people have never considered”.

“There have been many tears and great conversations sparked by this piece,” she added.


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