Thursday, June 16, 2016

Desde Allá: Confronts the Macho Stereotypes of Latin-America with Hyper-realism

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo

The macho stereotypes of Latino men had never been shown so vividly and questionable in a movie until “From Afar” or “Desde allá” came into the game.

“From Afar” is a sensual risqué and sexually divergent. It is a hyper-realistic motion picture that illustrates how raw and volatile the sexual life of Latin men is.

Lorenzo Vigas, AFI FEST, photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo, Copyrights 2016 
The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival had a sold-out screening at the AFI FEST 2015 in Los Angeles, where we met the visionary director Lorenzo Vigas.

Lorenzo Vigas, director, "Desde alla." Photo Jose Alberto Hermosillo
Vigas’ first work is masterful and very realistic. He takes us on a trip inside the box of the conglomerated geography of Caracas - showing the massive contrast between the affluent areas and the slums of the city, where young men steal, do drugs, and beat themselves to death - while the rich pass by indifferently.

The exciting camera work shows the city as crude and depressing as possible, including its social differences and contrasting environments.

The action starts with the fetishism and the sexual deviations of an uneasy middle-aged denture artisan named Armando, marvelously portrayed by the renowned Chilean actor Alfredo Castro (“Tony Manero,” “The Clan,” “Neruda,” “No”). 

Alfredo Castro is one of the best actors in Latin America. His performance in "Desde allá" is immaculate.

Armando’s family is wealthy, but he lives as a middle-class person in a strategically located apartment downtown.
Armando, afraid of intimacy, has an infatuation for young guys, whom he pays to show their naked backs while he enjoys masturbating. 
The rule is to watch, not touch; everything must be done “From Afar.”
When Armando bumps into a young guy named Elder, extraordinarily played by newcomer Luis Silva, his world is turned upside down.  

Elder has all the characteristics of the traditional macho, tough Latino man with nothing to lose, but the need for money leads him to prostitution because of his economic condition.
Silvio imprints liveliness, impetuosity, sensuality, and fresh air into the film. 
The natural obsessions and social prejudices will severely affect the newly made relationship.

The tension builds up at Elder’s sister’s Quinceañera when he and Armando show up elegantly dressed for the “Barrio’s” celebration.  
“Desde Allá” German poster.

Elder, naively, doesn’t know how to show his gratitude. After a few drinks, he publicly expresses his feelings for his benefactor, becoming a new world of discovery and contradictions.
Homophobia rules the streets, and people see the same gender love as treacherous.  
They struggle to become intimate in the bedroom, and the mystery breaks the enchantment when the couple has sex for the first time.
“Desde allá” French poster.
Armando is obsessed with viewing naked men but cannot relate to anyone physically, placing emotional barriers on the people who are rare to him.
“Desde allá” Italian poster.
The Elder is impulsive and uses his body to express gratitude and contempt intensively.

“Desde allá” accurately and seamlessly handles the universal themes of loneliness, lack of communication, and fear of expressing emotions, a paradigm of our times.
The intricate screenplay is written by the Award winner Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (“Babel,” and “The Burning Plain”), and it is based on an original story by Lorenzo Vigas.
The style of hyper-realistic filmmaking in “Desde Allá” is strident and exposes the characters in focus, blurring backgrounds, washing the colors out, and producing a closer connection between the actors and the audience.

The new fearless filmmakers pouring from Latin America are revolutionizing how the story is told on the big screen. Many of those hyper-realistic movies maximize artistic value and lower production costs.

The award-winning Latino filmmakers that are taking the world by storm: Carlos Reygadas’ “Post Tenebras Lux,” Amat Escalante’s “Heli,” Gabriel Ripstein’s “600 Milles,” Michel Franco’s “Chronic,” Jairo Bustamante’s “Ixcanul,” Ciro Guerra’s “The Embrace of the Serpent,” Sebastián Silva’s “The Maid,” Lisandro Alonso’s “Jauja,” Sebastián Cordero’s “Cronicas,” Dana Rotberg “White Lies,” Alvaro Brechner’s “Mr. Kaplan,” Anna Muylaert’s “The Second Mother,” and David Pablos’ “Las elegidas/The Chosen Ones.”

“Desde allá” flows with authenticity and realism, showing the characters' complexity with humanism. It expands the cultural horizons of the viewers who may think, in this day and age, that to love another person from the same genre is insane, immoral, and, in some countries, a crime.
This Venezuelan film raises many questions: How much do homophobia and prejudices affect a person’s growth? Why do so many stigmas, discrimination, and stereotypes affect our society? How far can you go for someone you love? How would you love someone “from afar” if you were so close and afraid to be in love?
After the horrific attack in Orlando on the LGBTQ community, the timing of this movie from Venezuela couldn’t be any better because “Desde allá” puts the finger in the wound.

Desde Allá - From Afar, official trailer (2015) Venice Film Festival

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