Focus in Latin American film at the QFest Philadelphia (8-19th July)
Elvis & Madona
A ditzy Copacabana drag queen and a butch lesbian fall in love in this enormously enjoyable post-queer comedy/drama.
Just when you thought filmmaking had exhausted showcasing the variations of queer coupling, comes this wildly entertaining and unexpectedly romantic comedy from Brazilian director Marcelo Laffitte. Madona is an alternately tough and feminine drag queen, tall and fabulously blond she is a hairdresser during the day and a club singer at night. She also endures a tumultuous relationship with João, her thuggish and abusive sometimes boyfriend. Also in Rio’s Copacabana is Elvis, an aspiring young photographer with short dark hair, a swagger and butchness to spare – she’s a bedroom-eye baby dyke. When Elvis gets a job delivering pizza, she meets up with Madona, right after she’s been robbed and beaten by João. They form a friendship, and then with the adage, opposites attract (but in this case reversed) they begin an unlikely romance. Can the two remain together, despite their differences? When you think of it – this is a heterosexual story – that of a man and a woman who fall in love – but Elvis & Madona is queer as queer can be. And it is one of the few films in the festival that should attract both lesbians and gay men…who knows what might happen when the lights go down. (Portuguese with English subtitles) — Raymond Murray
From Beginning to End
This controversial Brazilian drama follows the love and sexual intimacy between two men…who are half-brothers.
There are not a lot of topics involving consenting adults that can really shock these days but this searing romantic drama about two brothers who love—incestuously – may well be one of them! Set in a sun-burnished Brazil, two boys, Francisco and his younger half-brother (same mother, different fathers) Thomás, are being raised in upper class comfort in Rio by their doting mother. Five years apart, the boys are best friends and unusually close to each other so much so that their intimacy brings vocal concerns from relatives that maybe they are too close. But the parents reluctantly brush away the concerns. Fast-forward several years with Francisco and Thomás now strikingly handsome, bronzed young men and their childhood intensity has evolved into a torrid sexual relationship. But when Thomás is offered a chance to train for the Brazilian swim team in Russia for a long period of time, the proposed separation brings fears that their love is threatened. Spectacularly shot amidst the mountains, beaches and grand estates of Brazil, this intense drama does not just live on the controversial subject matter but rather is a strikingly evocative romance of two men fighting against societal conventions. (Portuguese with English subtitles) — Raymond Murray
Based on a true story and set on the lushly tropical Dominican Republic, Albert Xavier’s Hermafrodita is a powerful drama about love between two people caught in the cross-hairs of sexual identity politics.
Maria (Mariluz Acosta), a nimble-fingered seamstress, leads a quiet life with her grandmother amongst the picturesque mountains of the village of San José de Ocoa. By chance, while traveling home, she meets La Melaza (Garibaldi Reyes), a physically striking man who is fleeing Santa Domingo to live with his aunt and uncle who are in the business of farming sunflowers. Despite her shy persona, Maria and La Melaza soon find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. While love isn’t meant to tie your stomach in knots with fear, the pressure to take their relationship to the next level is threatening to expose Maria’s secret—born hermaphrodite, she has both female and male genitalia. Her lover is nurturing a heinous secret of his own; it’s the reason why he quickly left the capital city. Inevitably their relationship is bound to take a turn when Maria’s dual-sexuality is revealed. Hailed as the first queer feature from the Dominican Republic, we truly look forward to many more gay and lesbian stories emerging from the small islands of the Caribbean. (Spanish with English subtitles) — Carol Coombes
The Last Summer of La Boyita
It’s the summer of changes, secrets and transformations in this touching coming-of-age story of the passage from childhood innocence to youthful adolescence.
Sexual identity is discovered if not always entirely understood by young friends Jorgelina and Mario in this sun-splashed drama set in 1970s Argentina. Precocious Jorgelina leaves turmoil of her separating parents and adolescent sister to spend the summer in the lush countryside – to spend her days horseback riding and swimming with her childhood playmate Mario. But she soon begins to realize that Mario is not like the other boys. He is teased by farmhands and she soon not only becomes his protector, but his confident as well as Mario reveals to her that his body doesn’t look like pictures of either men or women. The girl becomes determined to understand both Mario’s condition and his family secrets. The dramatic and emotional tension between the two young friends is expressed subtly (using silent, eye contact and facial expression) as childhood innocence comes to an end. Beautifully shot and powerfully acted, the tender portrayal of an unusual but loving friendship despite much adversity makes the film memorable, honest and important statement about intersexuality. (Spanish with English subtitles) — Thom Cardwell
Coming out is not easy for affable college student Leo in this funny and endearing comedy/drama.
Managing to be equally touching, funny and sexy, Leo’s Room charts an unusually sensitive journey of self-discovery (and coming out) for a young gay man at a critical crossroads. Easy-going but secretly troubled college student Leo is thrown when his girlfriend – fed up that he can’t get it up – dumps him. He knows he’s gay but can’t seem to admit it to his psychiatrist, his supportive mother, his stoner roommate or even to himself. Internally conflicted, the mop-headed Leo becomes friends with an old female schoolmate, and he re-starts his heterosexual façade. Salvation possibly comes in the person of Seba, a handsome fellow student who wants more than a one-night stand with Leo. While dealing with topics of sexual suppression and self-awareness, the film remains light and often hilariously funny – due in no small part to Martín Rodríguez who plays Leo and Arturo Goetz as his zoned out, television-addicted, couch potato roommate who knows a lot more than he’s letting on. A thoroughly enjoyable and sophisticated dramedy from Uruguay. (Spanish with English subtitles) — Raymond Murray
Benjamin Bratt delivers the performance of his career as a macho yet loving Latino father who struggles to accept his teenage son’s homosexuality.
Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt), a Latino ex-con living in San Francisco’s Mission district, has two loves in his life: his son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), and detailing low-rider cars. But when Che accidentally discovers some incriminating photographs of Jesse taken at a gay nightclub with an equally cute Caucasian boyfriend, Che responds with repulsion and rage. Efforts to reconcile between the father and son only deteriorate into heated exchanges and even violence, which the empowered Jesse refuses to buckle under. Bratt – long on our radar thanks to turns in Piñero in which he played the titular bisexual poet, Miguel Pinero, and the well-meaning Madonna/Rupert Everett vehicle The Next Best Thing – turns in an award-worthy, complex performance as a man whose homophobia is so deeply ingrained he can’t seem to get past it. The adorable Valdez completely avoids cliché as the headstrong, self-assured, lovable Jesse. Written and directed by Bratt’s brother, Peter, La Mission premiered to standing (and teary-eyed) ovations at 2009’s Sundance Film Festival. — Lawrence Ferber
A decidedly different kind of sexual comedy—a straight guy plots to make his ex-girlfriend jealous by trying to seduce her new boyfriend. Complications arise.
How can a drama about two handsome, but straight guys get into a gay film festival? Well, you’ll need to watch this enjoyably subversive Argentinean version of Dangerous Liaisons to find out! One of the most acclaimed Latin American films of the year, Plan B is a witty, involving tale of revenge, deception and pent-up desire. Tall, confident wild-haired Bruno is pissed that he’s been dumped by his girlfriend and upset that she’s seeing another guy, Pablo, a sweet metrosexual charmer. Determined to get even and get back his girl, Bruno devises a plan that involves befriending Pablo, making him fall in love with him, and then dumping him in the hopes that his ex will run into his arms again. But something strange happens as the scheme develops. The two guys actually like each other and as they get closer, a strange sexual tension builds – a tension neither one expected. A warm, funny independent sexual comedy that explores two men’s man’s sexuality in a totally refreshing and original way and while a great watch for gay men, should be required viewing for every straight man. (Spanish with English subtitles) — Raymond Murray
Shot in a scenic Peruvian fishing village, Undertow is the emotionally powerful story of a secret love between a married man with a pregnant wife and an openly gay artist.
Profoundly moving, Undertow is a gay romance like none you’ve seen before. Set in a gorgeous Peruvian seaside town, this tender, romantic tale positively radiates love. Miguel (Cristian Mercado) and Mariela (Tatiana Astengo) are a popular couple in their small fishing village. Mariela is expecting a child and all seems well on the surface. The couple are an integral part of a very tight village social structure. The town is so small that most secrets are hard to keep; gossips are always busy. But Miguel has a secret life; he’s having an affair with Santiago, a gay artist, who is scorned by the other villagers. The two are very much in love with one another, but Miguel is torn between the traditions of his village and his love for Santiago. A tragedy occurs that forces him to make a choice between conformity and amore. Filmed with an eye for detail and rich with emotion, writer/director Javier Fuentes-Leon’s debut film won the coveted World Cinema Audience Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Undertow is the highlight of the year for gay international cinema; it’s a must-see at QFest. (Spanish with English subtitles) — Scott Cranin
Director: Javier Fuentes-León
Cast: Tatiana Astengo, Manolo Cardona, Cristian Mercado
Screenwriter: Javier Fuentes-León
Producer(s): Javier Fuentes-León, Rodrigo Guerrero
Cinematographer: Mauricio Vidal
Editor(s): Roberto Benavides
Undertow is Javier Fuentes-León’s debut.
For more information about the GFEst, please visit: www.qfest.com/2010
Entry filed under: BRAZILIAN CINEMA, CHILEAN CINEMA, COSTA RICA CINEMA, EXHIBITIONS, MEXICAN CINEMA, PERUVIAN CINEMA, QFEST PHILADELPHIA, SPANISH CINEMA. Tags: Focus latin america, gay cinema, LATIN AMERICAN FILM, QFest Philadelphia.