jim and i went to the esquire on sunday evening with two objectives: 1) to avoid any notice of a football game and 2) to see a south american film called undertow. i knew very little about it and am almost at a loss as to share just how memorable it is.
it takes place in a chiquito beach fishing village in peru. santiago is an extremely handsome (very gay) and independent artist/painter and has moved to the village to perhaps get away from his family. he has met and engaged in an affair with miguel- a very loved married man who grew up in the village. it becomes clear they have been having secret trysts and exotic entanglements, but since miguel’s wife has a baby due any minute, miguel thinks it a practical idea to end the affair (after one last glorious lovemaking) with tiago.
since i am not a reviewer, i thought i would share a synopsis from the film’s website…http://www.undertowfilm.com/
Miguel is a handsome, young and beloved fisherman in Cabo Blanco, a small fishing village in the Northern coast of Peru, where the community has deep-rooted religious traditions. Miguel is married to the beautiful Mariela, who is 7-months pregnant with their firstborn, but Miguel harbors a scandalous secret: He is having a love affair with another man, Santiago, a painter who is ostracized by the townsfolk for being agnostic and open about his sexuality.
When Santiago drowns accidentally in the ocean’s strong undertow, he cannot pass peacefully to the other side. He returns after his death to ask Miguel to look for his body and bury it according to the rituals of the town. Miguel must choose between sentencing Santiago to eternal torment or doing right by him and, in turn, revealing their relationship to Mariela and the entire village. Miguel is forced to deal with the consequences of his acts and to come to terms with who he really is, even if by doing so he stands the chance of losing the people he loves the most.
With sweeping images of the beautiful Peruvian coastline, UNDERTOW (Contracorriente) is the emotional intersection of contemporary sexuality, confronted by tradition and belief. This sexy and redolent love story is the feature film debut of Javier Fuentes-León and stars Manolo Cardona (Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the hugely popular telenovela series, Sin tetas no hay paraiso, and was also named by People en Espanol as one of its 50 Most Beautiful People in 2005), Cristian Mercado (Che) and Tatiana Astengo. The film is produced by Javier Fuentes-León and Rodrigo Guerrero (Maria Full of Grace, Dog Eat Dog).
of course the above is a simplification, and i cannot begin to relay just how simple and beautiful the metaphors for love, closeted gay love, stigma, and acceptance are that follow. tiago remains attached to earth and has to ask miguel to release him from his undead predicament, but miguel struggles with this concept selfishly. he wants to be with him so he continues his affair with his ghostly companion, even finally being brave enough to walk down the main drag of his village hand in hand with the man he loves. of course none of the other villagers see anyone but miguel- which speaks volumes about the loves we have that others do not see.
being a vbq (very big queen) i cried at the closing of the film. there is something so final about death and about the closure that those of us left behind need in order to move forward. it is a grave note that we are left with, but it is not simply sorrow that i felt. i found i was up to my earlobes in hope- that such a powerfully simple and straightforward film could come from such a small and not-very-well known country takes my breath away- almost as much as scene after scene of the peruvian coastline. i say see this film no matter what. even if you hate subtitles.
the 2 leading men are beautiful. the film is delicious. and the soundtrack is even more enticing. as a starter or as a meal, contracorriente (undertow) is thoroughly sublime.