Part of Inside Out’s Latin American focus this year are three guest-curated shorts programs that offer startling proof of the dynamism and diversity of Latin American queer film and video art.
Local media artist Eugenio Salas has curated a trashy, low-budget and fun selection of tapes for Latin Trash (screenings and a party with performances; 9pm, Sat, May 20, Rancho Relaxo), organized with the help of the Latin gay and lesbian group Hola.
One highlight is the awe-inspiring music video Taims Gous By Con Loli where a plus-sized female drag queen named La Terremoto (Earthquake) Of Alcorcón — decked out in pumps, leg-warmers, pink leotards, a gold lamé bikini, a big black wall of hair (with flowers in it) and sizeable earrings — parodies Madonna’s video for the song “Hung Up” with her own voice. Leaping around a gymnasium, the dumpster drags in this amazing piece not only do Madonna on the cheap, but change all her lyrics to suit their tastes (a ritual that La Terremoto has also performed to songs by Michael Jackson and Kylie Minogue). Another music video parody in the program is MeAnda – Don, where a boy band transforms the hit song by the group Miranda into a ditty about getting fucked.
Also breathtaking are the excerpts from the feature Mexican gay porn La Putiza, infinitely more imaginative and wacky than any North American or European production you’ve seen. One scene shows a hot muscley wrestler, the hero Diamante, biting a hole in the ass of his opponent’s shorts and rimming him mid-bout, only to realize that he had been dreaming. A master who lives in an evil lair (complete with what can only be described as an ejaculation machine) sets Diamante off on a bizarre SM/sci-fi quest to acquire a magic mask that will turn him into the mythic sex-maniac The Aztec Dick, but only if he resists the many temptations on his journey. With a gaunt, vampiric old dowager wandering around, a group of “insatiable mariachis” in crotchless pants, and a gang of “dangerous wrestlers” with names like Erection Volcano and Crazy Dicks, this is a wonderfully elaborate and bizarre funhouse porno world — and it’s a shame we do not get to see all of it.
I came across very interesting and fun stuff,” says Salas, “that not only responds to a DIY aesthetic — which strangely hasn’t take off in Latin America — but also has found its own circulation through alternative ways such as the Internet. [It’s] become very popular.
“What would be a better way to celebrate Latin America’s focus [than] a party? So I thought let’s do a screening party using the videos’ trash, colourful, bold, grotesque, raw aesthetic. And that’s how Latin Trash was born.”
Salas and Mexico City-based contemporary art curator Luis Orozco have also pulled together the Mexican Artfag Lab (7:45pm, Mon, May 22, ROM), a wide selection of queer Mexican artists’ videotapes. The tone of this program is slightly less carnivalesque and generally more severe than the burlesque of Latin Trash. The exception is a crudely animated cartoon featuring everyone’s favourite Mexican wrestling legend El Santo battling and eventually bedding the villain Feromona Tenebrae, who has released a noxious pheromone gas that has turned everyone horny.
While I found a few of the videos irredeemably lacklustre, I was struck by a pair of provocative hidden-camera/public sex pieces by Omar Gámez and an incredibly weird and torpidly paced fictional language tape. The appropriately titled Dark Video leaves us groping for images we can clearly make out, but so much is blurry and indistinguishable, apparently shot with the night-vision function of a camcorder secluded in a bag. The ambient soundtrack includes pounding music, pissing and moaning that hints at what is going on in what seems to be the backroom of a club. With the camera always moving, we are left with the impression of wandering around searching for either a clear view or a place in the orgy, but only catching glimpses and traces of the activity happening around us.
In the great outdoors of Costa da Caparica by contrast (the lapping of the ocean the only noise), the videography is clear as day, but our desire to look is still frustrated: Not only does the container in which the camera is secreted mask the edges of what visible (making the rectangular frame a circle) but the camera never seems to be exactly where we want it to be as it trolls a forest teeming with men in various states of undress.
While a viewer is never able to control the director’s camera, this impotence is aggravated by the palpable sense of the artist’s own (invisible) body out there in this Portuguese cruising zone, being checked out by the men that we are checking out. Because we can’t see the cameraman as he carries us around, we tangibly put our own bodies in his place yet we are never sure when or whether anyone else is watching or participating. Quite remarkable.
Finally, Exercises Or The Return Of The Body is a deeply strange and highly wrought sci-fi piece that takes the form of lessons in a “new, true and improved” Language No 4 based on the harmonic pairing of syllables and designed to replace an old language now considered vulgar and repulsive. A monstrous, pigtailed head goes through a series of morphs, each pose representing a different word, which two alien, pale bleach-blond hosts teach us. They methodically go through many words and the female must choose which of the two possible options is correct (is it nenedednheno or eiceidoneic?), while the male instructs. They wear matching orange and green outfits and their behaviour is quite eerie — they caress their own hair, chins and necks. The piece is filmed with strange symbols and gestures that occasionally evoke Matthew Barney’s work, and while its repetition may irritate some, it is certainly one of the most peculiar things Inside Out has shown, leaving you pondering its eccentricities for days.
Salas set out to build a bridge between communities and audiences, bringing indie, cutting-edge work to the wider queer community that attends Inside Out. He was also very interested in mixing up queer subcultures. “Being an immigrant and queer has taught me that one can get a richer life experience and wider perspective by crossing borders, experimenting, challenging our conceptions and getting to know the other.”
The third guest-curated Latin program is Roam Around Mix Brasil (10pm, Sat, May 27, ROM), a selection of work from the last four years of São Paulo’s huge queer film and video festival. While there were no preview tapes available, guest curator Suzy Capo singled out the award-winning young filmmaker Thiago Villas Boas’s The Intimate Life Of Cicero and Clovis and Júlio Maria Pessoa’s acclaimed In The Name Of The Father. Finally, Capo says, “I love If You’re The Guy Who Used To Flirt With Me At The Bus Stop. Watch this film. I think it is fresh, fun, original.”