To set the scene: Donovan, Joel and I show up to the opening of the Queer Film Festival Thursday evening. Surrounded by the who’s who of gay indie film cuture-glitterati of downtown/east side Vancouver (so the big guns ;) and as we passed 18-year old after 18-year old of hopeful future film school dropouts we entered the promise land of events: an open bar. Serving up beer, vodka and (my 13.5% per volume alc. choice of the night) wine, the ever sexy Ryan Steele and Peter Mendres offered a Niagra falls of flowing options to early attendees hopeful for a gentle buzz as we settled into our (thank GOD) air conditioned seats for the viewing of Javier Fuentes-Leon’s “Undertow“.
After a quick 10 second spot with my immortal crush Morris Chapdelaine as on-site reporter for “Out TV” during which I spent more time whipping sweat from the 32 degree room off my brow than being clever, we met up with Donovan’s hubby and settled into our “reserved” seats for the film. [Note: By reserved, I do mean that we took our nametags off our shirts... cause really, who doesn't know my name by now: I'm the guy who slept with your husband ;) and we placed them oh-so officially on the seats we best liked in the theatre. Class acts all the way]. And, so began the film.
The movie was … good. It was a gay indie, what do I say :P It was the harrowing tale of a Peruvian closeted-hairy gay balancing life with a out secret (and thank god cute) boyfriend and the female lover carrying the closet-case’s baby. The words machismo, roman-catholic guilt and juxtapositions are throw around accurately by the movie’s self-description as we watch (what is likely) present day coastal Peru’s take on the whole “gay thing”.
As you’d pretty much expect the G-word down there isn’t exactly as accepted as it is in San Fran on the Castro. Leading a double life of love and lovers, the flawed protagonist Miguel leads us down a trail of psyche-fragmentation as his boyfriend Santiago dies as a result of a strong undertow (*nudge nudge* get it? ;) Seemingly the end of his dual-life drama, this is in fact where the real conflict begins as the “ghost” of Santiago follows Miguel and continues to love and haunt his partner even after his death.
The movie has- of course- a gorgeous backdrop which the director plays well upon as internal struggles are personified vividly with the thrashing and torrential scenic seaside of South America’s Peru. The acting is emotional and constantly bouncing between deep sorrow and pained confusion to elation and well, gayness :) Not a movie that will change your life, but certainly offers a great story to those dealing with bisexuality, closetedness and religious commitment.
The following is the synopsis offered by the director:
Undertow’s breathtaking Peruvian seaside setting will effortlessly captivate you. It will just as easily sweep you away with the story of Miguel and Santiago-a pair of passionate and handsome men having an affair. But this debut feature by director Javier Fuentes-León delves far deeper than forbidden love on moonlit beaches.
Today is the last day of the film festival. If you haven’t checked any movies out, it’s not too late. Head to the VQFF website for up-to-date screenings.