SUPREME UNEASINESS. Doc on controversial Colombian writer Ferdinard Vallejo is one of AluCine’s queer highlights. (image by Xtra files)
AluCine, the Toronto Latino Film And Video Festival, has a delightful amount of queer work from South America this year, including several strong documentaries and shorts that are sure to pique everyone’s interest.
The standout is surely the award-winning documentary The Supreme Uneasiness by Luis Ospina which offers an intimate depiction of the controversial Colombian writer Fernando Vallejo (9pm on Mon, May 2 at the NFB).
Vallejo is the outspoken author of the semi-autobiographical Our Lady Of The Assassins (made into a film by Barbet Schroeder in 2000) and he is also the recipient of the 2003 Romulo Gallegos prize for Latin American literature. Living in exile in Mexico, he rails against the horrors of Colombian life, referring to the country as “a disaster without remedy.” He is unapologetic of his opinions toward the government and marriage (“Marriage is a criminal association and should be punished”) and he is openly critical of other Spanish literati (namely Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
Vallejo’s detractors refer to him as “a nut who wants to take revenge on [Colombia] for his bad homosexual experiences.” But Vallejo cooly retorts, “I’m not a homosexual. I’m bisexual: I like guys and little boys.”
Ostensibly a nihlist and anarchist, Vallejo is really a demure old man filled with passion. “Colombia is the only thing I care about,” he says.
The charm of the film is its wonderful balance between Vallejo’s venomous speeches and his quiet, affable manner in daily life. Could this be the same angry man that we see tenderly feeding his dog? Scenes of Vallejo visiting Colombian street youth as well as interviews with family members and respected authors merely offer a window into this fascinating personality that still mystifies in the end.
Also of note is Joui Turandot’s documentary Yo Soy Asi (I Am Who I Am) which affectionately depicts the struggles of a group of transgendered and transsexual individuals in Chile. Faced with poverty, discrimination and violence, these survivors come together to support one another and share their stories (7pm on May 3 at the NFB).
Katrina, a witty and sincere trans woman, left home at 10 and eventually started her own beauty salon in order to avoid a life of prostitution. She teaches other trans women to cut hair and they even volunteer their services at a local retirement home.
Other transgendered women speak out about the hardships they face: gay clubs won’t allow them entrance, the medical community won’t help them transition and, forced on the street, some get bashed and even killed.
Yet the women band together to form the activist group TravesChile and there are some fabulous scenes of them waving flags and blowing kisses to all the macho Chilean men in the streets.
In the world premiere of Maricones (Faggots) by local directors Marcos Arriaga and Alex Flores we get to see just what it’s like to be an aging gay man in Peru (7pm on May 2 at the NFB). Eusebio and Juan are two men who aren’t afraid to be out amongst the machismo of Peruvian culture.
Eusebio is a tell-it-like-it-is homo living in his hometown and raising his brother’s two sons. Charming and effusive, we follow him as he interacts with the locals in the market. Despite recollections of abuse and discrimination for being gay, his outlook is positive and unapologetic (“I liked cock – what could I do?”).
Juan, on the other hand, tells of the years in the closet due to his father’s prominence in the media. Once out, he organized the first Pride Day in Lima. The two men’s disparate yet honest reflections of their lives make for a kindhearted and insightful documentary.
The Canadian Filmakers Distribution Centre shorts program is also exciting, featuring quite the mix of homegrown and international animation, experimental and narrative works (6pm on May 6 at Innis Town Hall). Check out how a lesbian and gay man get it on in Straight Sex by Mouncey Ferguson or find out just how many dykes are fakin’ it in You Fake by Maureen Bradley. Local Renata Mohamed produces a heartfelt coming-out letter to her parents in Coolie Gyal. And if that weren’t enough then might I suggest: bald men (Gay Men And Hair Loss by Roy Mitchell), Timbits (Snack Pack by Eugenio Salas) and money shots (Hate by RM Vaughan).