Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Jayro Bustamante's TEMBLORES (Tremors): Guatemalan horror tale for homosexuals

At this point in time and in most "western" countries, gay lives (as well as gay-themed movies) are most often feel-good affairs set out to prove how wonderful, encompassing and accepted the gay lifestyle can be. And why not, since these days, those lives are for the most part, and especially for the elite, pleasant and productive. Which is why something as unusual as Jayro Bustamante's TEMBLORES is cause for celebration. Temblores translates as tremors, the likes of which figure quite importantly, literally and symbolically, into this new film, co-produced by Guatemala (where it is set), France and Luxembourg. By celebration, TrustMovies means that of excellent filmmaking but certainly not of what happens to the poor guy at the center of this story.

In the film, Señor Bustamante (shown at left), who both wrote and directed, shows us how Pablo, an attractive, middle-aged man from a very wealthy family who has decided to leave his wife to settle in with his male lover is blocked from his desire by family, church, community, the law and just about everything else that could possibly stand in his way. This proves a quietly increasing horror show, the likes of which most of us in the GLBT community will not have heretofore encountered. It certainly will not increase the Guatemalan tourist trade -- except perhaps for that of right wing fundamentalists.

Bustamante gives us three generations in this uber-rich group, with a welcome and thoughtful concentration on the younger set, personified by Pablo's two children, the younger of whom is wetting his bed due to family tensions, even as the slightly older daughter is trying to come to terms with what is going on and what this means.   

This is a highly religious family, highly hypocritical, too -- elite and quite used to getting its way as the only expected and rightful course of action. That's the pastor's powerful wife, above (played with steely intelligence by Sabrina De La Hoz), as she leads a group of errant males back to the fold via means that are jaw-droppingly nasty and obtuse.

What happens to Pablo -- Juan Pablo Olyslager (above and below, left) giving a fine performance that moves from dread mixed with hope to complete capitulation -- becomes increasingly shocking due to the closing off to him of each level of society with which he had formerly interacted. Little wonder, then, that his lover (Mauricio Armas Zebadúa, above and below, right) has well adapted to the gay sub-culture of this country, becoming so much wiser and abler than is the clearly pampered Pablo.

That the two men care about and are attracted to each other is presented clearly enough via their verbal, emotional and sexual encounters. They also make a good pairing, given how one's character, class and abilities (or inabilities) so well complements the other's.

But as one circumstance after another -- too often attributed to "god's will" -- serves to undercut their relationship, our anger begins to grow exponentially. Yet Bustamante's quiet control and refusal to give in to melodramatics makes all this seem not simply believable but finally inexorable.

You'll imagine you know the final scene when you see it, but no. The filmmaker takes us one step further, and this is brilliant -- opening up the merest possibility of hope, if only via the next generation. Temblores is a film for the ages.

From Film Movement, in Spanish with English subtitles and running 107 minutes, the movie opens on Friday, November 29, at the Quad Cinema in New York City and at the Coral Gables Art Cinema here in Miami, and on Friday, December 6 at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles, the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and also in South Florida at the Movies and Delray and Lake Worth.

These screenings will be followed by openings in other U.S. cities, including Chicago, Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Click here and scroll way down to see currently scheduled playdates, cities and venues.

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