Desde Allá – ‘From Afar’ – is a Venezuelan film by Lorenzo Vigas. The film is the director’s first feature and has made history as the first Venezuelan film to take out the Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion.
It was one of the final films screened at this year's Sydney Film Festival, which concluded Sunday.
This isn’t your usual LGBTQIA+ film. It’s not about gays battling against external homophobia, and there's no heartwarming coming of age story to be found.
The film follows Armando, a middle-aged single man, and Elder, a 17-year-old ringleader of a Caracas street gang.
Armando regularly pays boys to take off their clothes while he fantasises from across the room, but when he picks up Elder it appears he gets more than he bargained for – a hard bash to the face and his wallet stolen.
Despite that – or perhaps because of it – the stone-faced older man takes a shine to the younger boy. Repeatedly seeking him out, their relationship develops into something which defies traditional classification.
Armando positions himself somewhere between a father figure and a sugar daddy to the violent, uncouth Elder.
What had theatergoers talking on the way out the door was the final scene – at once shocking while still entirely plausible.
For much of its length, viewers wonder where on earth the film is going and what it’s about. Exploitation? Their unconventional relationship? The film covers both.
What it’s ultimately about, however, is internalised homophobia - something straight audience-members may struggle to identify.
It’s about the self-hatred that can lead to denial, anger, self-harm, cruelty and martyring – all of which are present in the film.
Uniquely agonising, it’s a wrenching internal trauma endured by millions of LGBT+ people who live today and who have lived and died before – and not everyone receives their happy ending.
Many have described the ending of this film as ambiguous - it isn't.
Both characters in this tragedy are victims - of themselves and of each other.