High Museum of Art: Films


Undertow (Contracorriente) by Linda Dubler

A review of Undertow by Julie Chautin

Undertow (Contracorriente) is another not-to-be-missed film in the High’s Latin American Film Festival.  Javier Fuentes-León’s first feature film won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award for World Cinema Drama earlier this year. It is a story full of emotion and beauty.  The director captures the glistening blue sea, the wild and rocky coastline, and the intense inner turmoil of a married man in love with another man.

 It was filmed in Cabo Blanco, on the coast of Peru.  Peruvian director Fuentes-León, however, would have been happy if you thought it was made anywhere else.

In an interview with Jason Farbman of The Latin America News Dispatch, Fuentes-León notes that he wanted the seaside village to look “like a small town that could be set in South Africa, or Italy, or Colombia, or Thailand, or even maybe Louisiana.”

Miguel and his wife Mariela live in this pretty village where Miguel is a fisherman, like everyone else.  They are expecting their first child.  “Miguelito,” Miguel calls softly into Mariela’s growing tummy.  They don’t know the sex of the child yet, but Miguel is sure it will be a boy.

Life revolves around the water, and so does death.  Burials are done at sea in a traditional way.  Miguel understands the importance of a good departure from this earth.  And his friends rely on his help to assure their departed rest in peace.

So it is all the more wrenching when we discover Miguel’s secret life.  He is having an affair with an artist visiting the village – a male artist.  No one knows, and that’s the way Miguel must have it to survive.  It’s a tightrope no one would want to be on.

When an unexpected tragedy happens, Miguel’s tightrope starts to fray.

In the interview,  Fuentes-León notes that when dealing with homophobia, what may change people’s minds will always be “having somebody else next to them say, ‘hey, I’m gay,’” — someone you love or respect or admire, he adds. And not surprisingly, those are the feelings I have for Miguel.