Guatemalan Feels (Film Thoughts: Jose)

11MV5BYjgxZDgxZDAs we continue with Valentine’s Week, I want to write about films about love stories. Li Cheng’s ‘Jose’ may not fall under ‘traditional’ as far as love stories are concerned, but in my opinion it is very much one. Enrique Salanic plays the title character, a nineteen year old young man in Guatemala. He works in a curbside restaurant serving shuco (their version of a hotdog) and lives with his very religious mother (Whenever he is late coming from work, she starts praying asking for God to bless her son)

Jose is also gay, and has random hookups from an app on his phone (Grindr is everywhere, y’all) he usually meets these men and they go to hotels that rent room by the hour. You can see the guilt in his eyes as he goes into these trysts, as he makes excuses to hsi mom why he is running late. He starts seeing someone regularly – Luis, played by Manolo Herrera – but Jose feels like in a trap. Even as we see the joy in both their eyes when they are together, Guatemalan society frowns on gay relationship, and besides, his mom depends on him. This drives Luis away, as he is envisioning a life together, even planning on building their own place.

Nothing much else happens in the film, and at times you wait for it as we see Jose go on with his daily life. Cheng documents Jose’s life as if in a diary – we get intimate with him and we see as he sees love unrealized, and because of that, we sense the despair. Hours after seeing the film, I couldn’t help but think about Jose. i couldn’t help but identify with some of his situations and hope that the character is in a better place because I am. The film’s emotional core sneaks up on you, and its effect is devastating.

Fault Lines (Film Thoughts: Temblores/Tremors)

treJayro Bustamante’s ‘Temblores’ (Tremors) is set in modern day Guatemala, but it feels like this  could have been the 18th century.  Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) wants to leave his family for another man and in the beginning of the film he comes home finding out that this has been revealed to his family and they are confronting him. He reacts by curling up in a blanket, as an earthquake happens, causing everyone to think it’s God sign that this sin must be repented. The rest of the film deals with the aftermath. He leaves for his lover, and as a result, he loses his job and visitation rights. I am sure these situations still happen in Guatemala, and it is nice to see the stories told, but as a viewing experience I thought it was pretty bleak. I couldn’t feel any kind of joy in the film, even as Pablo, in the beginning, tries to liberate himself from the constraints of his family and religious beliefs. And the ending is a downer of all downers, so the whole experience felt very dark – not the best movie to watch int he Christmas season.