Talk to Me star Zoe Terakes speaks out after Kuwait bans horror film: ‘I’m not a theme. I’m a person’

Talk to Me star Zoe Terakes speaks out after Kuwait bans horror film: ‘I’m not a theme. I’m a person’



Australian actor Zoe Terakes has spoken out after their horror film, Talk To Me, was banned in Kuwait because of their gender identity.

Non-binary trans masculine actor Terakes made history last year as the first openly transgender actor to be cast in the MCU, in the upcoming Marvel series Ironheart. Now, they are in the spotlight once more after The Hollywood Reporter revealed that conservative Gulf state Kuwait has banned their latest project.

Kuwait has form with banning or heavily editing films due to their progressive themes. Most recently, Greta Gerwig’s billion dollar box-office hit Barbie faced a battle over censorship in the region.

Talk To Me has seen a smooth release in the rest of the Gulf territories and Kuwait’s ban marks never-before-seen levels of censorship, since it is based entirely around the identity of an actor rather than the content of the film.

Terakes plays party host Hayley and their gender identity is never mentioned in the film. On Sunday (6 August), the actor shared a screenshot of The Hollywood Reporter’s article on Instagram, denouncing the decision as targeted and dehumanising.

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A post shared by zoe terakes (@zoeterakes)

“This isn’t the first film Kuwait has banned. If there are queer or trans themes or scenes in your film, it’s probably not gonna make it to the Gulf, which is devastating and terrifying in its own right,” they wrote.

Over the years, films with minor LGBTQ+ characters and themes, such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Beauty and the Beast, Eternals, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Lightyear, Onward, and even the classic West Side Story have all suffered a similar fate in Kuwait and countries across the Middle East.

“But our film doesn’t have queer themes. Our film doesn’t actually ever mention my transness, or my queerness,” Terakes said. “I am a trans actor who happened to get the role. I’m not a theme. I’m a person.

“Kuwait has banned this film due to my identity alone. Reportedly, this is a first. This is a precedent. It is targeted and dehumanising and means to harm us.

“As much as it is very sad to be on the receiving end of this, what is even more heart-breaking is what this means for the queer and trans people of Kuwait.”

The actor went on to say that “representation is hope” and pointed out that “banning trans actors on screens will not eliminate trans people”.

Zoe Terakes plays a party host in Talk to Me. (Getty)

Terakes, who starred as Reb Keane in the TV series Wentworth, added: “Hope is such a large part of how we live as marginalised people. It’s how we learn to move through the hatred and the mistreatment and the violence. We look to all the people who have done it before us, we look to all the people who are doing it beside us, and that gives us hope to keep going.

“We are a community that has learnt to depend on one another, because cis people have historically been no help. Therefore, our survival is so dependent on our ability to look to one another, to share, to lean on, love and see one another. My heart breaks for the trans people and queer people of Kuwait who have so few places to look.”

They concluded their caption by encouraging people to donate to LGBTQ+ charity Rainbow Railroad, which supports persecuted trans people globally.

There is currently no word on whether Kuwait will rescind the ban or release an edited version of the film which follows a group of friends who accidentally unleash a terrifying supernatural spirit.

Talk to Me is in cinemas now.

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