veterans & gourmets
Highlights from the San Francisco Latino Film Festival
by David Lamble
There's a distinctly queer accent to this year's Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival, running Sept. 13-28 at nine Bay Area venues: San Francisco's Victoria Theatre, Opera Plaza Cinemas, Blue Macaw, Galeria de La Raza, Artists Television Access, and Mission Cultural Center, Richmond's Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center, Oakland's Eastside Arts Alliance, and San Jose's MACLA.
Homeboy In this intimate oral history, Dino Dinco has former LA area gang members share moving and occasionally very funny stories about their constantly evolving identity as gay men. One man discusses how he accidentally stumbled upon a rent-boy scene, receiving a painful baptism in the back of a van on a dark Hollywood street.
Larry, a handsome US Army veteran, is equally proud of his Casper "the friendly ghost" tattoos and his certificate of graduation from an Army technical school. Recalling his days with a now-defunct gang, he soberly reflects on the gang's prison reunions.
The film's panel sport images from butch to fem, but all comment on how hard it was to juggle their families' expectations that they be "real men" with their growing awareness of attraction for just such hombres. Their personal stories range from an absurdly funny account of a misfired first attempt at anal sex, to present-day efforts to erase tattoos, to memories of old boyfriends and the acknowledgement of a new generation of defiantly open and proud gay men.
Homeboy's stories are enhanced by photos and Tom of Finland-style drawings by Rafael Esparza and Hector Silva. The film's first-person stories are buttressed by research conducted by gang scholar Luis J. Rodriguez, author of the memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA (www.luisjrodriquez.com). (Opera Plaza, 9/16)
(Photo: Courtesy Cine+Mas)
Fallen Comrade James Valdez astutely employs patriotic imagery – an American flag is given to a grieving mother at her son's (Tyler Kimball) military funeral, who then passes it on to his platoon buddy "lover" (Javier Lezama) – and a nicely crafted music track (Bjork's "Unravel," and a low-key, moving version of "Amazing Grace" by Leann Rimes) in an emotional short that examines a brief but passionate combat romance. Playing in the LGBT Latino Shorts Program. (Artists' Television Access, 9/26, 7:30 p.m.)
Recipe for Love Self-discovery and a love of food are a bond for two ambitious young women in Chauncey Wales' short, which walks a thin line between being a slick infomercial for emerging lifestyles and a risible parody of same. The gourmet-food hook is fine as far as it goes as a metaphor for upscale hotties indulging themselves to the nines, but the final product demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, just how gentrified the old Barbary Coast has gotten. Playing in the LGBT Latino Shorts Program. (Artists' Television Access, 9/26, 7:30 p.m.)
We're All Meant to be Queens Miguel Astudillo presents a portrait of Aurora Grajeda and Rosa Cortez, transgendered women from Mexico living in San Francisco. (LGBT Latino Shorts Program) (Artists' Television Access, 9/26, 7:30 p.m.)
Sin Padre Jay Francisco Lopez and Maria Fe Picar set this tale of a fatherless 17-year-old Honduran refugee in San Francisco's Mission District. Javier Lezama gives an impassioned performance as a kid haunted by the sense that he lacks the family roots he envies in his classmates, including his dopey best friend and soccer buddy.
The film takes a while to hit its stride, wobbling at first between preachy afterschool special and cable sitcom, but eventually the filmmakers find their footing and give us a heart-breaking piece on, ironically, some of the themes that have popped up on the margins of the presidential campaign: women's reproductive rights and the unacknowledged role that rape plays in some family cultures in this society. Should provoke a stimulating Q&A at its Victoria Theatre screening. (9/14)
Smuggled Talk about claustrophobia. In Ramon Hamilton's chamber drama, we sit with a mother and her 10-year-old son as they hide in a secret compartment on a tourist bus crossing the Mexican-US border. The pair are trying to join the boy's dad, who left to seek work in the States. Director Hamilton employs touches from radio theatre as the pair hear disturbing sounds outside the bus: the heavy breathing of a border agent's dog, the driver announcing that the vehicle has broken down 50 miles short of their destination.
Newcomer Ramsess Letrado turns young Miguel into a person who inspires empathy, especially as his story takes several desperate turns. (Opera Plaza, 9/15)
(Photo: Courtesy Cine+Mas)
Not So Modern Times When first we spy him, Karken is a simple, stoic Patagonian sheep-herder who lives off the products of his ranch, supplemented by a barter system with distant neighbors. In Simon Franco's Argentine comedy, the modern world starts its insidious creep with tourists showing up in 4x4 off-road vehicles, then satellite TV with its lifestyle commercials, soap operas, and reality shows – what next? Well, the old man becomes hooked, and pretty soon starts selling pieces of himself – as an Argentine singing cowboy – for filthy pesos. As usual, the remote and beautiful Patagonia is the star in a fable that shows how we all become corrupted.
This is one movie without the usual "no animals were harmed in the making," as we see in the final stages of skinning a sheep. The remaining live critters look a tad nervous. (Opera Plaza, 9/15; Mission Cultural Center, 9/23)
Sibila Teresa Arredondo examines her once-imprisoned aunt's history with the Peruvian terrorist group The Shining Path. (Opera Plaza, 9/16)
Unfinished Spaces Doc about a futuristic art school commissioned by Fidel Castro in 1965, and only completed by a group of aging exile architects in the new century. (Galeria de La Raza, 9/19)
Filly Brown Street poet meets DJ and sparks fly in Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos' urban drama. (Victoria, 9/14; Opera Plaza, 9/15)