The acceptance of GLBT people in Latino culture has been especially daunting but progress has been made. Contributing to this over the last decade is the proliferation of movies depicting the experience of being Latino/Latina and GLBT. The San Diego Latino Film Festival has annually highlighted such works among its overall programming through a special showcase series, Cine Gay. The 9th annual edition will take place March 13th-23rd at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Among this year’s offerings is one narrative feature I’ve seen and can highly recommend: Margarita. The title character (a nice performance by Nicole Correia Damude) works as a live-in maid for power couple Ben and Gail and their teenage daughter, Mali. Margarita is dating a beautiful female medical student and is happy taking the lead on the family’s domestic routine. This all changes when a series of bad investments threaten to bankrupt the family permanently. To cut costs, Ben and Gail fire Margarita, an action that completely uproots all sense of cohesion in the household. Co-directors Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert’s tender drama gets at the heart of unlikely friendships and the rash actions that can potentially taint them forever.
Also being screened is a rare gay-themed film from Cuba, La Partida (The Last Match), in which two soccer-playing young men fall passionately in love with one another in the slums of Havana. Described as “super sexy and romantic,” it’s a must see on my list.
Several documentaries hailing from Mexico, El Salvador and Venezuela will also be shown. Quebranto, by director Roberto Fiesco, relates the life of Fernando Garcia Ortega. The actor was in some of the most popular Mexican films of the 1970’s, including El hijo de los pobres (1975) and Los hermanos del viento (1977). Ortega was the ultimate child star, but he came out as a transvestite some years ago and now calls himself Coral Bonelli. The documentary tells both Fernando’s story and his mother’s, Lilia Ortega, who was also an actress in the 1970’s. They live together and still perform today while yearning for their past in the movies, while Coral bravely comes to terms with her gender identity.
El Cańaveral is about Joaquín, an HIV+ gay Salvadorian political activist. He is seeking asylum in Canada but the outcome of his refugee claim looks bleak. Fearing for his life, Joaquin is summoned to the Border Agency where he will receive the response to his refugee claim. Brutally frank and perceptive, Samuel Lopez’s documentary looks closely at how identity and ideology converge in one man’s pursuit of safe sanctuary.
Yo, Indocumentada focuses on three Venezuelan women — Tamara, Desiree and Victoria — from different walks of life. At first glance, this lawyer, stylist and art student have very little in common. However, each carries an identification card that bears a different name. Each is a transsexual woman who has changed her gender but the Venezuelan government does not recognize their transition. In fact, the country still suffers from rampant homophobia and prejudice. The film is protest art at its finest, giving its subjects a voice in order to effect change, both personally and nationally.
The Cine Gay Showcase also boasts an GLBT shorts program, and the larger San Diego Latino Film Festival will feature a special “Latinos on TV” panel to include actor Frankie J. Alvarez from the new gay-themed HBO series Looking. It all promises a muy caliente time at the movies this month!
Complete information and ticket sales can be accessed at the Cine Gay Showcase website.
Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.