In Lily Ni’s directorial debut, a young Taiwanese boy, Shi-Nan, suddenly has stomach cramps, and he even begins to urinate blood. After collapsing at school, his parents find a urologist and are quickly informed that Shi-Nan is intersex. Shocked and dismayed, they avoid informing him of his diagnosis, attempting to deflect shame and to coerce him into a medical procedure. Without Shi-Nan’s consent, his parents allow a sex reassaignment surgery, leaving Shi-Nan spiraling into an identity crisis as his parents change his name and move them to a new city.
As the introductory scene opens with a butterfly fluttering across the frame, the slow-building music reflects the nature of the lives of intersex individuals. And as each scene is doused in a hue of blue that collides with pink lights flashing outside of Shi-Nan’s window, highlighting the nature of his dysphoria, the film confronts the troubling relationship Taiwan has with the intersex community. Shi-Nan, now known as Shi-Lan, attends a new school, but a change of scenery is not what he needs. BORN TO BE HUMAN is a portrait of one human’s physical and emotional metamorphosis that occurs without his knowledge or consent.