‘Anthem’: Black, Sacred, and Free

Marlon T. Riggs perverts homophobic rhetoric in his 1991 short film.

Hi! I’m Gio (he/him) also known as MediaMartyr17. I am a Black Queer student, writer, and podcaster. You may recognize me from my appearances on The Nerd Corps or from Share Club Pod, a weekly podcast that I co-host with Michelle aka QueeenWeeeb. Though it has only been a year, The Nerd Corps has enriched my life and I will never be able to thank Raúl and Brad for the level of community they have brought into my life. With that being said, let’s get into my first written review as Writer/Ho Host at The Nerd Corps.

Anthem (1991) continues Riggs’ celebration of the revolutionary act: Black men loving Black men. In less than 9 minutes, Riggs combines poetry performance, house music, and intercut imagery to dispel the belief that homosexuality is not Black, a sin, and un-American.  

First, Anthem connects gay pride with Black pride to dispel the belief that homosexuality is a sin. The framework of the film is built on the principles of Black liberation through lines like “I must remake my history”, “Rearranging syllables is revolution”, and “A chain of tongues unchained”. Because of chattel slavery, Black people in America have lost a lot of what connects their heritage back to Africa. A large part of Black liberation is focused on taking ownership of the language and land that was forced on us while reclaiming our history and our connection to African tradition. This is further cemented in Anthem by an image of the African continent in the of the Pan-African flag with a pink gay pride triangle behind it. Riggs perverts the language of Black homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as inherently Black.

Secondly, Anthem connects sex and religion to dispel the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Acts like using Vaseline or spit as lube or putting a condom on your lover’s penis are described as intimate parts of a sacred rite. The lovers make vows to each other similar to the sacrament of marriage (i.e. “I place my ring on your cock where it belongs”; “I give you my heart, a safe house”). Riggs perverts the language of Christian homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as holy worship.

Finally, Anthem connects love and American ideals to dispel the belief that homosexuality is un-American. The intimacy shared between two black men is described as an acknowledgement of the other’s freedom. They pledge to each other: “Long may we live to free this dream” as a rendition “America the Beautiful” is sung in the background. Black men loving Black men is conveyed as an extension of the American dream, especially when access to that dream has been denied to Black men since the inception of the United States. But when the lovers “kiss, we confirm the new world coming.” Riggs perverts the language of American homophobes by describing the revolutionary act as patriotic.

Marlon T. Riggs masterfully flaunts Black men loving Black men as inherently Black, holy, and patriotic worship. I look forward to watching more Marlon T. Riggs in the near future

5/5

Learning To Fly

A Spoiler-Free review of “Invincible”

Long time, no type for this reviewer. But, here I am again to delight with the written word on what is perhaps one of the best animated shows on television. Being an AMAZON ORIGINAL and having characters voiced by the like of Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, and J.K. Simmons, there really was no doubt that this show would knock it out of the park. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but I will say that you need to watch this as soon as possible before it is spoiled by the likes of twitter (To be honest, one of the main reasons I started watching was because of some twitter hype of a certain scene that happens towards the end episodes). Although I have never read the comic by Robert Kirkman, from what I have heard, it is very close to the source material (And the first season only gets through like 1/4th of it. Two new seasons have already been requested from Amazon, so yay).

To give a gist of what the show is, let’s just say it revolves around the Grayson family with Mark Grayson (voiced by Steven Yeun) being our young teenage protaganist whose world is flipped upside down once he gains super powers that are akin to Superman in the DC universe. (The boy just wants to date and that’s very difficult to do when you have a side hustle of saving the distressed and beating up monsters). These powers of course being passed down from his father, Nolan Grayson aka Omni-Man, an alien from the planet Viltrum (voiced by J.K. Simmons) who had come to Earth, over 20 years before the start of our story, and who met Debbie Grayson (voiced by Sandra Oh) eventually marrying and starting a family.

I don’t want to go into the story much more than that, but I will say that this is a brutal show. It is very action-oriented with a great deal of violence being portrayed throughout every episode. This is not a superhero show for small children. Along with fantastic animation and a story that makes you stick to the edge of your seat, the character design along with the amount of characters we get to see is quite extraordinary as compared to other comic book adaptations, be it movies or shows, where the amount of heroes and villains is dependent on the budget (look no further than the original Deadpool movie with Ryan Reynolds throwing quite a few jokes at this). Robert Kirkman has built quite the world with this and it is a definite watch for both fans of INVINCIBLE and those who just love comics and/or good storytelling. Give it a watch before it’s spoiled for you. – YoungYoda

‘La Llorona’: The Incredible and Haunting Film From Guatemala

La Llorona (2020) excels to create an interesting new take on the folk tale filled with horror and insightful nuances.

CREDIT: La Casa de Production

Just like many Latinos, I was told the fear inducing story of La Llorona at a very young age. I was about six years old and my abuelita told us the story of this “weeping woman.” Now, the version I was told goes as follows. La Llorona was an indigenous woman who lived by the border. She had two kids, a boy and a girl, who she loved very much but she fell in love with a man who lived in the United States. La Llorona falls for the man but his feelings aren’t as strong as hers. After a rocky relationship he leaves her and she stays in Mexico while he travels up north for work. La Llorona believes that nothing could be wrong with her that could cause this man to leave her. She comes to the conclusion that her kids are at fault and one night she takes her children to the Rio Grande River to drown them. As they lose their life being drowned La Llorona realizes that she has done wrong and proceeds to drown herself. As she meets her creator, her God tells her that she cannot enter their kingdom until she finds her children and truly understands the severity of her acts. La Llorona comes back down to Earth and every night she weeps “mis hijos (my children)” as she searches for them. If you encounter her she may take your children from you especially if they roam the river alone.

I would like to remind you all that I grew up on the border so this kept me far away from the river which was possibly the goal of this story being told to me at such a young age. The story of La Llorona has gone through changes various times that we don’t really know the actual story or where it originated from. One thing is true though, all of its incarnations have been fear inducing. The story of La Llorona has been translated onto the silver screen before but was done terribly at adapting such a terrifying story. On the contrary, what I watched on Shudder was far from being terrible.

La Llorona (2020) is set in Guatemala as General Enrique Monteverde is tried for genocide after him and his army murdered many of the local indigenous population in the 80’s. At first, Monteverde is tried and found guilty of genocide but because the old man is not in the best of condition he is allowed to stay at his home under a form of house arrest. After losing all but one of his helpers at the home he employs a beautiful indigenous woman with long black hair and a white gown. Once Alma the new housekeeper starts to work for them and various protests happening every day, something starts to feel very strange within the home as the effects of isolation start to settle in.

Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona (2020) is exhilarating, nuanced, and downright incredible. First of all, let me talk about the bare minimum, La Llorona is an indigenous woman and the fact that she is played by an indigenous actress is beautiful to see. Not only is she casted appropriately but her and the various indigenous people in the film talk different dialects of the Mayan language. Such important characteristics that seem to be the bare minimum are never represented in Hollywood. The way that this Guatemalan film incorporates the folk story makes for an incredibly interesting retelling. The modern retelling and commentary of Latin American politics within this horror film is vastly nuanced. Instead of focusing entirely on the folklore of La Llorona, the film uses the story more as a backbone to create the bone chilling atmosphere of the picture. Maria Mercedes Coroy as Alma/La Llorona is incredible and goosebumps inducing. Every deep stare from her feels like it is looking deep into your soul. Everything from the performances, cinematography, and fluid direction makes for quite a picture. La Llorona (2020) is truly a masterful effort from Bustamante and their team of creatives.

This film is one of the best of the year, and I highly recommend you all watch it as soon as possible. Watch La Llorona (2020) on Shudder.

‘The Mole Agent’: A Heartbreaking But Unique Documentary

Chile’s official selection for the Best International Feature race at the 2021 Oscars is filled with nuance, heartbreak, and a conversation that needs to be started.

CREDIT: Micromundo Producciones

Why do we put our elders in nursing homes? I hope we start to ask ourselves that more often after 2020. These homes can be a nice spot for some, but it can be a really lonely place for those that stay there. Plus, one cannot ignore the history of elderly abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Maite Alberdi’s documentary urges us to ask ourselves, why would we place such important people in our lives in these institutions?

The Mole Agent (2020) looks at an investigation of possible elderly abuse happening at a nursing home after a daughter brings up her concerns that her mother may be abused at the facility. A private investigator seeks out an old man to go undercover and collect as much information as possible. While our protagonist collects information he starts to make friends and grow close to the people staying at the home. What he learns with this information is just as heartbreaking as possible elderly abuse.

Maite Alberdi directs one of the best films of the year and one of the biggest contenders to win next year’s Best International Feature. The film is tense and reflects one of a spy thriller but the documentarian backbone of the movie keeps it on its toes. The cinematography and naturalistic lighting is just right for this film. It all comes together to create the atmosphere of this unique film. What makes this movie special though and worth all of the hype critics are giving it? It is the writing and the people we meet within the film. Every single moment we spend with our protagonist as we learn more about the people who stay at the home allows us to learn more about what this facility does and how the people staying there feel about it. The stories and people we meet throughout the film are beautiful and carry such heartbreaking weight with them. Some of them have not been visited in years and have adopted a new family in the home with the friends they make there. It’s because of all this that The Mole Agent (2020) is beautiful and touches your heart especially those who have experience with these facilities. I know that once the credits started rolling and a bit of tears traveled down my cheeks I immediately thought of my abuelita. The film is magical yet so simple and because of that it works so well.

It is not as groundbreaking on the level that I thought I’m No Longer Here (2020) was but it is still such an important film to keep an eye out for it throughout this awards season. Watch The Mole Agent (2020) on virtual cinema at The Film at Lincoln Center.

‘I’m No Longer Here’: A Masterpiece of Identity From Mexico

Fernando Frías directs an incredible film full of emotional depth and nuance that exceeds all expectations.

CREDIT: Netflix

The last time I wrote to you all I was stuck inside a home because the world outside was falling apart, and not much has changed since. I am still very active on the podcast and starting season two of The Cinema Condition soon. This year in film has been filled with a lot of movies but a lot of them were not available to the public, so my year in film has been slow for the most part. Throughout the year I have watched some great films like Bacurau (2020), I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), Sound of Metal (2020), and of course Tenet (2020). I was convinced for the most part that nothing would top my then favorite film of the year, Bacurau (2020). I was incredibly wrong.

I’m No Longer Here (2020) or Ya no estoy aquí (2020) looks at the life of Ulises a 17 year old boy who is part of a gang named “Los Terkos” (“The Stubborn”) as he is exiled from his community after a misunderstanding. Ulises then goes to New York City as he lives in Queens and begins to navigate his new life as a foreigner in a new world. This journey is met with discrimination, self doubt, and an identity crisis. It all blends to create my favorite film of the year.

It is so hard to not approach these films as a Latino but especially a Latino who is a son of immigrants. It is also so hard to not approach this film as someone who very much understands the eternal struggle of a Latino who at times does not really understand their identity. At one point I thought I understood the concept of Latinidad but since then I have lost much grasp of it. Ulises is like a lot of the people I grew up around, we were into different music, from some of the worst neighborhoods you did not want to step in, wore different clothes, did our hair differently from what was expected from us, and because of that we were easy targets to be bullied. When we were not bullied we were used as symbols and for others to use for their own gain. We did not fit a mold and we were never supposed to fit that mold.

I did not have the life that Ulises had completely but I knew a lot of people in México who were living there especially in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in 2010-2013. They were too exiled from their land but instead of street gangs it was their government who pleaded them to come over to the United States because of the government’s incompetency to handle the situation at hand. Life became harder and the land of opportunity they thought they would be introduced to was just not there for them. Once again they were discriminated in this other part of the world for being them.

What Fernando Frías does with all these aspects is create a beautiful but heartbreaking story that is often too real for others. The cinematography is fluid and beautiful especially with its naturalistic lighting. The Kolombiano music included works so well to create the atmosphere and ambiance of what makes Ulises unique and a free spirit. The sense of community is felt throughout the whole film. The dread of being seen as weird and “the other” is heartbreaking. The pain of coming back to your land but seeing that the landscape of its people has been changed forever and it is not the land you were exiled from. Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño gives us a truly nuanced and beautiful performance as Ulises. The non linear aspect of the film works well with the structure especially if you think about it as Ulises remembering his life back then while in Queens. Everything works and it all creates such a beauty that speaks on so many levels.

Ya no estoy aquí (2020) is the official selection from México for the Best International Film category at next year’s Oscars. Watch Ya no estoy aquí (2020) on Netflix.