LGBTQ shorts reflect sexual diversity in Mexico

On May 3, as part of a Mexican Week celebration, Lightbox Film Center is hosting an outstanding program of short films featuring sexual diversity. The eight films, which consist of live-action, animation and documentary shorts by, for and about LGBTQ Mexicans, will screen at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion, a Q&A and a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

The first selection, “Which Animal Would You Like to Be,” is a minute-long short about sexual tolerance in school. It is followed by “Two Whales,” a poignant drama about two teenage brothers, Nicolás (Sebastían Aguirre) and Emilio (Alejo Contreras), whose mother is being treated in a hospital. While they struggle to get along, one reflects on a classmate he loves.  It is a sweet, sensitive film.

The program shifts gears with the fabulous documentary “dragTHEqueen,” in which a handful of drag queens talk about their lives and drag personas while preparing their makeup. They discuss transforming into their characters and seeking respect and acceptance from society, as well as the art of their work. It is a revealing doc that treats its subjects with dignity.

In contrast, the narrative film, “In a Land of Macho Men, the Queer is King” has Neto (Carlos Montes de Oca), a luchador, confronting both internalized and external homophobia and his current profession as an exotic wrestler. It’s a tough film, but one that grapples with Latin maschimo culture.

On the lighter side, the wordless animated short “In a Heartbeat,” co-directed by Mexican Esteban Bravo and Beth David, has a young man’s heart literally popping out of his chest when he pines for another boy. Scared of rejection, he tries to control his emotions in this sweet fable.

The program’s lesbian entry, “Pleiade” by David Muñoz Velasco, has Marianna (Marianna Burelli) coping with — and haunted by — the death of her lover (Emilia Duclaud). Velasco’s hypnotic film is beautifully shot and unfolds almost entirely without dialogue.

There is also an inspiring documentary, “I’m Alex (Soy Alex),” about a trans man who reflects on learning to love himself. Alex talks about his love for Lady Gaga and is seen working out at the gym, recording videos for his followers and interacting with family members at home. But when he talks about visibility and normality for the trans community, the personal and political sides of his life come into bold relief.

Arguably the highlight of the program is the wild and irreverent “Julkita,” directed and cowritten by Humberto Busto. The title character (Haydee Leyva) becomes empowered like a superhero when she experiences her monthly period. This outrageous and entertaining film is a commentary on the hypocrisy of Mexican patriarchy, from how Julkita handles her obnoxious, sex-crazed brother (cowriter Alberto Wolf) to her hopes of combating corrupt politicians.

In a recent Skype session, Busto explained that his film stemmed from his belief that

“Mexico is in a real big political crisis right now, and it hurts a lot. There is a gap between intentions and real political action.”

Busto described how women are being killed in Mexico. The violence is accepted “because it’s Mexico,” he said. “There are people like me who want to change that and make people more conscious of this. There is anger and fear around it, and we don’t have a political figure who can help women.”

Busto developed “Julkita” after meeting with actress Haydee Leyva in New York City. Leyva was feeling angry because she was having her period, he said. “She hated having all these emotions and couldn’t control them.” They conjured up a female character using her emotions and power not to destroy herself, but to make the world better. (“Julkita” is a play on “Hulk,” or “julk” in Spanish. Julkita means “little Julk.”)

While the filmmaker acknowledged women may take issue with a man making a film about menstruation, Busto said he’s receptive to reactions — pro and con — towards his fantastical genre piece. He created a short with images as vivid, beautiful and powerful as anything in a comic book.

“It is necessary for us to put new points of view on the table. Maybe ‘Julkita’ is too strong, but no one is indifferent to the film.”

The point of “Julkita” is to reflect on that dichotomy, he added.

“Most of the people in Mexico are trying to think differently about gender and sexual identity, but we think we are [more evolved] than we are. We need to destroy the idea of the macho man.”