Monday, June 14, 2010


Yesterday afternoon my friends John, Mark and David, and myself, headed off to Circular Quay (almost under the shadow of the Opera House) to the Sydney film festival. John had organised tickets for us to see the gay themed movie Contracorriente aka "Undertow" from Peru. [Official site]

Wow. What a beautiful film! I can't recommend it highly enough. The film maker Javier Fuentes-León (um, woof!) spoke briefly before the film, and then stayed for a short Q&A session after the film, which really added to my enjoyment of it.

I found it really interesting to hear him speak about the realities of making a film about a gay love story in a deeply religious Catholic country like Peru. About keeping some of the plot lines until the end of the shoot, out of concern for the sensibilities of the local villagers. Many of whom were extras on the film. He also pointed out that although some people clearly disapproved of the developing story, many were actually quite accepting and the economic realities of the work the film brought to the village were such that nobody interfered with the production.

The story is primarily about the love affair between the closeted married bisexual Miguel, a local village fisherman who is only about a week away from being a father, and an artist called Santiago who has a summer house in the village. Santiago has a long history with the villagers, although he is still clearly an outsider. Partly because he is less concerned about hiding the fact that he is gay, something he only appears to be doing to try and protect Miguel. The action takes place within a few weeks, but it's clear that Miguel and Santiago have been lovers for a while at least.

What really makes the film is the performances. Wow. The chemistry between the two male leads (Manola Cardona and Cristian Mercado) is natural and really lovely to see. You have absolutely no problem believing that these are two men who love each other, even though the constraints on Miguel's upbringing and situation make it hard for him to admit it (although his actions express it more clearly than he probably knows). It's not just about the sex, there is support and love there. All the actors turn in fantastic performances, including Tatiana Astengo as Miguel's wife Mariela.

There is a plot turn (which I won't give away here) which takes the film in an unexpected direction, but it works beautifully. It tests the love between the two men, and makes Miguel face some hard truths about his situation. Ultimately the film is optomistic and positive.

...and I think I'm a little bit in love with Manolo Cardona who plays Santiago.

Those eyes.

[Updated: There is a new review of the film over at After Elton, but proceed with caution because it hints at spoilers.]

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