When dancer Naissa tells his mum Daniela that he is a man and will be transitioning, she struggles to understand. Through candid personal letters exchanged over 3 years, I Still Know You follows Naissa as he stands firmly for his independence and identity, and Daniela wrestles with her fear of losing a daughter. As Naissa embarks on his professional career as a dancer and proudly embodies his gender, his mother finally comes with him and learns to listen with love.


Film credits:

Producer and Director: Sky Neal (she/her)

Editor: Dara McLarnon (they/them)

Cinematography: James Hughes (he/him), Sky Neal.

Executive Producers: Lindsey Dryden (she/her), Charlie Philips (he/him)

Featuring Daniela Essart  (She/her) and Naissa Essart Nielsen (he/him)

Letters written by Daniela Essart and Naissa Essart Nielsen

Trans Advisory team:  Su Reby (she/her), Henri T (they/them)


Teaser credits:

Technical Director: Søren Nielsen (he/him)

Choreographer: Becky Namgauds (she/her)

Additional cinematography: Mark Morreau (he/him)

Funding to Scarabeus from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England


Play time

30 minutes


Excerpts from letters:

“Ever since I can remember gender has always been something constantly clouding my mind. When I was younger it was less of an issue because I passed as a boy. Whenever I’d be referred to as a daughter it made me want to explode, like I was  lost and someone had reminded me who I was supposed to be”. Naissa 

What do I know about what it means to live in a body that doesn’t feel like home – me – who has a body that has served me well all of my life? I have travelled through many internal and external landscapes, but this is completely new and unexplored for me; it feels mysterious and somehow dangerous”.  Daniela 


I Still Know You brings to life a series of intimate letters between a mother (Daniela) and her adult child (Naissa, now 22). Naissa came out as trans to his parents in 2019 and told them he wanted to physically transition. Naissa and Daniela struggled to communicate about his transition, instead agreeing to write letters to each other.

These intimate letters provide the narrative structure of the film and offer the audience a rare insight into this mother-child relationship, as Daniela wrestles with the attempt to understand her child’s identity and choices, and Naissa seeks to understand his mother’s journey towards acceptance.

This process of growing up and navigating shifting identities will resonate with the experiences of families across the world. Understanding changing gender expression requires sensitive negotiation between the two of them and in the telling of their story. Uniquely this film moves through a mix of cinema verite and dynamic, dreamlike, allegorical sequences as they read their letters to each other and wrestle towards visibility and expression.

The film doesn’t avoid difficult and awkward moments between son and parent, amidst the cinematic and beautiful aspects of their journey. Cinema verité captures mother and child together – tensions, affections, negotiations – and also reflects Naissa reclaiming his space and forging his path on his own terms.

Naissa is a professional dancer and has recently graduated from the London School of Contemporary dance. In dance he has a tool to explore his shifting identity, the relationship between inner self and physical self, and also the process of disclosing his transness. We witness powerful creative moments of this expression during the film, as he celebrates his body as a dancer and a trans man.

Daniela is artistic director and co-founder of one of the UK’s leading aerial theatre companies; creativity is embedded in her personal and professional lives. She shares her heartache as she fears ‘losing’ her child to both adulthood and a different gender identity, and she learns to take pride in her son and his courage as he navigates a formidable path to wholeness and delight in his identity.

With unique access to their relationship, this is a rarely-told story that, rather than focusing on the medical details of transition, takes us on an intimate and insightful journey towards understanding and communication, whilst dealing with universal themes of motherhood and coming of age.

In post production, due for release in 2023.

This documentary has received development funding from Screen Cornwall and The Film and TV Charity’s John Braebourne Award.

A short version has been Commissioned by LYFTA.