A work that captures with authenticity the repressive Guatemalan society towards gays, but its heavy-handed take on how religion can be the ‘cure’ for the LGBTQ community might not sit well with some audiences.
Dir. Jayro Bustamante
2019 | Guatemala | Drama | 107 mins | 2.39:1 | Spanish
R21 (passed clean) for homosexual content
Cast: Juan Pablo Olyslager, Mauricio Armas Zebadúa, Diane Bathen
Plot: The coming out of an evangelical father shatters his family, his community and uncovers a profoundly repressive society.
Awards: Nom. for Teddy Award (Berlin)
International Sales: Film Factory Entertainment
Subject Matter: Mature
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed on screener for Love & Pride Film Festival 2019)
An emerging voice in Central American cinema, Jayro Bustamante’s first feature, Ixcanul (2015) made waves at the Berlin International Film Festival with a prestigious main competition slot. Four years on, his Guatemalan follow-up, Tremors, premiered at the same festival in the Panorama sidebar section, this time tackling LGBTQ issues in his own country.
It is a decent film that has moments of cinematic power particularly in the intersection between religion and homosexuality, backed by an effectively subtle performance from its lead Juan Pablo Olyslager who plays Pablo, a husband with a great, supportive family and a stable well-paying job, but throws it all away when his family finds out that he has turned gay.
In this extremely repressive Guatemalan society marked by a blind overreliance on religion, there is seemingly no way anyone from the LGBTQ community can survive with sheer discrimination and policing.
This brings Tremors into a quaint territory—that it is a remarkable work if you see it as an authentic representation of an intolerant society, yet it is also non-progressive as a LGBTQ movie if you see it as a work of conformism.
It seems to narratively suggest that religion can/should/must be the ‘cure’ for the LGBTQ—and this heavy-handed approach at the expense of a gay character who is at his wits’ end might not sit well with some audiences.