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April 16, 2014

Documentary focuses on what same sex marriage means today in Argentina

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New families, new questions

By Pablo Suarez

“I’m 34 years old and the same sex marriage law has been passed,” says Argentine filmmaker Maximiliano Pelosi right at the beginning of Una familia gay (A Gay Family), his new documentary focused on what getting legally married can really mean for a member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gaby, Bisexual, and Transgender) community today in Argentina.

As any documentarian would do, Pelosi starts by asking himself some new questions: does he really want to marry his boyfriend with whom he’s been living for five years now? What if the institution of same sex marriage is only replicating the errors of an entire society that has historically discriminated homosexuals? What should the real reasons for getting married be? How about same sex couples having or adopting kids? And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Pelosi effortlessly conducts his own, personal investigation as he interviews friends, relatives, acquaintances, public figures from the LGBT community, and even a priest from the Catholic school he attended as a boy. And they simply and candidly talk about fidelity, rituals, responsibilities, law, expectations, sex, in vitro fertilization, bonds, threesomes, monogamy, agreements, friendship, acceptance, rejection, diversity and, of course, true love.

Actually, the many topics addressed and how casually they are addressed are two undeniable assets of Una familia gay. This way, viewers get engaged in a much-welcomed, nonpretentious manner as they become aware of or get more familiar with things that do matter. These are issues that draw as much visibility as possible since they are, precisely, topics that have created strong debates and managed to create a better and fairer society for all.

Pelosi is even smart enough to add some humour here and there, as to avoid a too serious approach that would be a turn off. What’s most striking is seeing how honest and heartfelt the director's gaze upon his material is.

If I had to choose a most powerful, and also touching part of the film, I think it would be towards the end when César Cigliutti and Marcelo Suntheim, the president of the Argentine Gay Community (CHA), and his longtime partner speak about the kind of protection the same sex marriage law provides in case one the spouses dies. To be more precise, Cigliutti recalls how the scenario was for Carlos Jaúregui, the first president of the CHA, who had AIDS, when his partner died of AIDS and Jaúregui was evicted from the place where they’d had been living together for years. Jaúregui, a tireless and key gay activist, spent his last days in Cigliutti’s home until he died of AIDS in 1996.

For those who knew Carlos, remembering him like César and Marcelo do is the best homage he would have wanted (as trite as it sounds). Most important, the fact that what happened to him can’t legally happen again to anyone now, is what his tireless activism, and that of many others after him, has finally achieved, once and for all.

As far as documents go, Una familia gay is, in many ways, essential. Yet there’s a downside: cinematically, it’s not nearly that accomplished. The reenactments, for instance, don’t look as natural as needed, but rather a bit staged for the camera. The mise en scene, also, is sort of precarious and quite inexpressive.

Even some of the interviews could use a more profound outlook, instead of being only informative. So what could have been a compelling piece of work, is somewhat diminished by the limitations in its film form. It’s easy to see that a film like Una familia gay, with all its flaws, speaks of a determined and defiant director who knows not only what the current agenda in equal legal rights is all about, but also how to get people to talk more about it.

@PablSuarez

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