By Greisy Genao
Living up to its’ theme of “El Cine Nos Une”, the 7th Annual Dominican Film Festival dedicated a whole selection of films to LGBTQ experiences. “Miradas Paralelas| LGBTO Retrospective,” showcased six short films covering the violence against LGBTQ bodies in the Dominican Republic, the diaspora of queer Dominicans in New York, the exploration of open relationships, and the tension between sexuality and Christianity. All of the films in this selection stood out for their masterful plots, resonating messages, and imagery.
Miradas Paralelas| LGBTQ Retrospective was not just a refreshing glance at LGBTQ cinema coming out of the Dominican diaspora, but also highlighted the role of film as a political agent capable of uplifting the stories of marginalized communities. Films like Un regalo de mi padre do this wonderfully; it presents to the audience a heartbreaking story about a Dominican man escaping harassment, getting an opportunity to flee to the perceived safe haven of queerness (New York), and having it all fall apart in front of him because of a cycle of violence against queer bodies he ultimately no choice but to participate in. God’s Sex politicized message moves a little differently. With 78 percent of the Dominican Republic identifying as Roman Catholic, a documentary questioning the ethics of Catholicism in regards to sexuality is easily recognizable as a political tool beckoning its audience to reconsider what being Catholic truly means. If there are people like the ones in the documentary having to redefine what God means to them because religion as a system has shunned them from grace, then the audience has no choice but to ask themselves if they are complicit in that exclusion.
Si el cine de verdad nos une, then films like the ones shown in Miradas Paralelas will play a key role to dismantling stereotypes and taboos about homosexuality, trans-folk, and sex workers in the Dominican diaspora.
Below are some brief reviews of the films:
A pesar de su ausencia (Djali-Brown Cepeda, 2017).
This film is an audio-visual poem. It takes us to the home of Lazara, a young second generation Dominican woman living in New York with her mother and brother. What we see is her day-to-day: her waking up, eating mangu y huevo frito, lighting candles to cleanse her room. There is no dialogue, but there is a voice over: a poem about absence. About feeling someone there despite the lack of their physical body. We at first think it is her boyfriend, who we only see briefly leaving her bedroom in the morning. And so we think it’s another hetero love story, until the Cepeda allows us into the bedsheets and bathtub of Sol, a long-haired woman who entangles herself in Lazara’s body, to the point where Lazara as able to feel Sol’s lingering touch, despite her absence.
God’s Sex (Luis Camilo, 2018).
A Dominican porn star. A Dominican escort. A Dominican trans-woman. God’s Sex is an interactive documentary that questions and follows these three people and their relationship with God. From conversations of redemption, belonging, depression, atheism, to reconciliation, God’s Sex does a powerful job of giving a voice to those who tend to be shunned in our community for their sexuality.
Swingers (Aulio Ivan, 2017).
A Dominican couple has a difficult time spicing up their sex life, and so the wife suggests having a swingers party with another couple. In love and desperate to save his marriage, the hesitant husband recruits his coworker and her husband. It’s fun, until it’s not. Feelings get hurt, and crimes of passion get committed. It was one of the few films in this selection to be filmed in the Dominican Republic.
Tiznao (Andres Farias, 2015).
This particular film stood out for its’ masterful cinematography. Titled after a Dominican Carnaval character, the film follows a gay performer named Lubrini given a day to find his boyfriend who has gone missing. Either the oncoming hurricane kills him, or the man looking for his missing boyfriend does. Although the entire film cannot be found online, there are teaser trailers available on Vimeo.
TÚ. YO. BAÑO. SEXO. AHORA (Francisco Lupini Bassagoiti, 2016).
Recovering from a break-up, a Spanish man comes to a bar to seek consolation from the bartender. While there, a presumably German man who doesn’t speak Spanish passes him a note inviting him to an opportunity to forget his breakup. Turns out the guy spoke Spanish all along, and he teaches the heartbroken man an interesting lesson about how to move on. Summed up, the moral of this story is “to get over someone, get under someone else.”
Un regalo de mi padre (Gisely Montilla, 2015).
This film warranted some tears by the end of it. A young gay man who faces street harassment and homophobia finally gets his visa to leave to New York, where he believes he will get a chance to be his honest and most authentic self. Things go down-hill when he has a negative encounter with his father, which creates a domino effect of events leading all the way up to the films closing shot. This film is actually available on YouTube. Check it out here:
Greisy Genao is a 22 year old published poet and filmmaker from Queens, New York studying film of the Dominican diaspora.