‘Talk to Me’ Actor Zoe Terakes Speaks Out Against Kuwait’s Transphobic Film Ban

Australian horror film Talk to Me is a worldwide box office smash for indie studio A24, but the celebration is bittersweet for actor Zoe Terakes (they/he).

Talk to Me is another A24 brainchild that has impressed audiences and critics alike. The film, which stars Terakes alongside Sophia Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, and Otis Dhanji, details the events that transpire when a group of teens conjure terrifying supernatural forces through the use of an embalmed hand.

The critically acclaimed film grossed $10 million during its opening weekend, making it the indie studio’s second largest domestic opening behind their film Hereditary. But it’s hard to celebrate your film’s success when a country prevents it from being screened because of your involvement in it.

On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Talk to Me was banned in Kuwait with the reason being Terakes’ gender identity. Terakes identifies as nonbinary and transmasculine and while dark spirits are referenced throughout the film, Terakes’ gender identity isn’t. Still, in an precedented move, Talk to Me will not be released within Kuwait and Terakes took to social media to lambast the transphobic decision. 

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

As Terakes alluded to, the Middle Eastern country has blocked films with LGBTQ+ characters and storylines in the past. Films like Lightyear, West Side Story, and Everything Everywhere All at Once have been banned within Kuwait and other Gulf countries. However, this is the first time a film has been banned in Kuwait with a cast member’s gender identity being the issue. 

“Kuwait has banned this film due to my identity alone. Reportedly, this is a first. This is a new precedent. It is targeted and dehumanising and means to harm us,” added Terakes. “As much as it is very sad to be on the receiving end of this, what is even more heartbreaking is what this precedent means for the queer and trans people of Kuwait.”

The 23-year-old actor’s star is on the rise. With roles in Wentworth, Talk to Me, and Nine Perfect Strangers, Terakes was recently welcomed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an undisclosed starring role in the upcoming Disney+ series Ironheart. Their casting makes them the first openly trans actor within an MCU TV show, but even the MCU has fallen victim to the Gulf’s censorship. Films like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Thor: Love and Thunder, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Eternals have all been censored for one reason or another, leaving Ironheart’s release in Kuwait up in the air. 

“Eliminating trans actors on screens will not eliminate trans people (as much as the government of Kuwait wishes it would) but it will eliminate a lot of hope,” added Terakes. “And hope is such a large part of how we live as marginalised people.”

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