Javier Fuentes-León, “Undertow”

“Undertow” Written and Directed by Javier Fuuentes-León

Miguel (Cristian Mercado, “Che: Part Two”) has lived his whole life in the small Peruvian fishing village where he now awaits the imminent arrival of his first child with his pretty wife, Mariela (Tatiana Astengo).  But Miguel keeps a large secret and when Santiago (Manolo Cardona, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”), a painter shunned by the denizens of the town for being homosexual, disappears, Miguel’s very soul is pulled down by the “Undertow.”

Writer/director Javier Fuentes-León makes his feature film debut with this Peruvian-Colombian drama film chosen to represent his country for the Foreign Language Film Oscar.  Stunningly photographed by Mauricio Vidal, “Undertow” is about a ghost caught between his lover’s private shame and a town’s public traditions.  Mercado creates a complex man who remains likable even as he struggles with his own identity and machismo.

“Undertow” had been gestating since 1996, when the director Javier Fuentes-León wrote the very first scene. Originally conceived of as a supernatural revenge thriller about a fisherman having an affair with a prostitute, Javier decided to change it after coming out of the closet himself, in an attempt to explore more interesting themes and material.

The film shot in Cabo Blanco, Peru, won the World Cinema Audience Award in the Dramatic category at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S.A. Other Audience Awards included Cartagena, Montreal, Miami, Chicago, Utrecht, Lima, and Galway, as well as Jury Awards in Madrid, San Francisco, Seattle, Toulouse, and Philadelphia. It received a nomination as Best Latin American Film at the 2011 Goya Awards in Spain.

A great film. Javier Fuentes-Leon is a great writer and director. The photography and use of symbolism in this film both make this a movie that must be seen.

Song “I Know Him So Well” is performed by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson

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