Thursday, July 07, 2011

"Gun Hill Road": Hispanic family deals with a transgendered son, screened by Reel Affirmations

On July 7, Reel Affirmations screened a new film by Rashaad Ernesto Green, “Gun Hill Road”, at the Landmark E Street Theater, two private screenings, well attended.  The production company is Simon Says and the distributor is listed as Motion Film Group.

The name of the film is a major street in the Bronx; it doesn’t mean too much to the "outside world". Here’s the setup. Esai Morales. plays  Puerto Rican laborer Henrique, a married Hispanic man getting out of prison on parole after a period of solitary confinement for a fight. He returns home to find his son Michael (Harmony Santana) transforming himself into Vanessa.  In his situation, having his son be transgendered is the ultimate insult to what is left of him, his family.  To his son, he is almost a stranger.

The physicality of the transformation is quite explicit at spots in the film, with the forearm shaving and silicone injections. As Vanessa, “she” has some explicit situations with men; finally his father tries to force him to have intimate relationship with a woman, setting up a familiar intimacy with an odd twist.   Finally, Vanessa may have the last say on his dad’s fate.

The film certainly explores the idea that parents (especially fathers) may believe that their kids are emotionally or psychologically indentured to their family purposes; their right to this kind of authority over family and  lineage is part of the stability of their marriage. The wife Angela (Judy Reyes) must hold the family together and realizes that she could very well lose her husband for good, if he cannot accept his son the way he is. 

But Thompson has been effectively destroyed already. To stay free, he must hold down a menial job; he gets fired from a restaurant as a cook for the way he messes up a bean salad.  Isiah Whitlock Jr. (the most familiar name to me -- "Cedar Rapids")  is sympathetic   enough in brief appearances as the parole officer. 

Here is the official website.

Here is a “First Look” YouTube video from Sundance:

The film has support from Tribeca and opens soon in film festivals in Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

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