aGLIFF 2010 (Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival)
By Don Simpson | September 7, 2010
Director: Javier Fuentes-León
Writer: Javier Fuentes-León
Starring: Tatiana Astengo, Manolo Cardona, Cristian Mercado
Miguel (Cristian Mercado) is a fisherman whose life with his very pregnant wife, Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), seems pretty darn perfect, but there are emotional undertows tugging Miguel down into trouble. The name of that trouble is Santiago (Manolo Cardona), a traveling artist and outsider to this tranquil Peruvian seaside village.
Santiago is comfortable with his sexuality and would prefer to be ostracized by society rather than hide from it. Miguel is quite closeted and is tied by local traditions (as we first witness during the burial ceremony for his cousin) and morals. Nonetheless, Miguel and Santiago share a series of clandestine rendezvous, getting busy on breathtaking beaches in between lovers’ quarrels over Miguel’s insistence that their relationship remain a deep dark secret.
Santiago dies unexpectedly and his spirit is trapped on Earth until his body can be discovered and offered up to God. In other words, Santiago becomes a ghost. Only Miguel can see and communicate with Santiago and this new situation suits Miguel perfectly. Their relationship is now so much easier to conceal, but unfortunately, Santiago is miserable in limbo. Rumors of their relationship crash to the surface and Miguel is forced to choose between saving his marriage (and respect within the community) and giving his lover a proper send off.
Part love story and part ghost story, this tale of magic realism earned director Javier Fuentes-Leon the audience award in the World Cinema dramatic competition at Sundance. A delicate examination of attitudes and social mores, Undertow touches on issues of self-hate and betrayal and is a stark reminder of the liberation that being true to your sexuality brings. Undertow brilliantly explores issues of sexual identity and machismo attitudes in a conservative community built on tradition, religion and superstition.