January 1, 2017 -- This is an absorbing film about transvestite singers in Havana, Cuba, and the troubled relationship between one of them and his ex-convict father. It features powerful stage performances and an intense off stage drama. This film has a good chance of being getting a best foreign language Oscar nomination (Spanish is the main language of this film, shot in Cuba and Ireland, directed by Irish director Paddy Breathnach).
Jesús (played by Hector Medina) is a young, gay hairdresser for drag queens with aspirations of one day taking center stage at a nightclub featuring lip-synch performances by transvestites. He has been on his own for years with his mother dead and his father, Ángel (played by Jorge Perugorría) having abandoned the family when he was three years old, later spending years in prison for killing a man in a drunken brawl.
Jesús is drawn to the stage, and finally auditions. His first attempt at performing doesn't go well, but his mentor, club manager known as Mama (played by Luis Alberto García) believes in Jesús' potential. He gives him another chance, but tells him to practice first. His next attempt goes much better, until his father (a former boxer) shows up at the club and hits him in the face.
Ángel moves into Jesús' apartment, and forbids him to perform at the nightclub. But Ángel doesn't have a job and Jesús was barely making ends meet with his hairdressing money before his father moved in. Their relationship is very difficult for both of them. Ángel is very macho and cannot abide by his son's activities. Jesús eventually resorts to gay prostitution, and returns to the stage, hoping his father won't find out.
Both Jesús and Ángel have secrets they are keeping from each other. Eventually, they have to reveal these secrets and come to an accommodation in order to accept each other. At one point in the film Mama confronts Ángel and tells him that performing is his way of fighting back against the prejudice against homosexuality in Cuba. Jesús says something similar to his father at one point, telling him he is not just performing for the money. All his life he has been put down for being weak and effeminate, but performing makes him feel strong and proud. He tells his father, “I'm doing this for me.”
The powerful stage performances in the film come mainly from Mama (a character reportedly modeled on Cuban performer Manuel Proenza Quintero, known by his stage name Maridalia). Mama's performances are incredibly emotional and powerful. Jesús' performances are not nearly as good, until his final performance in the film, which is much better than his earlier performances. This film rates a B.
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