By: Mildred M. Vargas Astacio
On Wednesday, November 27, 2013, Mileyshka Vyrux D’Nile got on a black stage around 7:30 p.m. in La Tertulia. With make up on, purple wig, black leotard, glittered purple skirt and black boots with white feathers in the ankles, Miss Vyrux danced to the sound of music welcoming the public to the Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest at Mayagüez, also near the University of Puerto Rico.
This year, the 5th edition of the Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest was celebrated in three different locations in the West. On Monday, November 25, 2013, the festival took place at Ponce Paramedical Collage-Mayagüez with international short films For Dorian, Genderfreak, The Blue Dress, Jackpot, Yeah Kowalski!, The Tourer and the presentation of Kriss Du Cecile y Alexandra Duvont. On Tuesday, November 26, 2013, the festival continued the amphitheater of the Dr. Josefina Torres Torres Infirmary Building at University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, where it was presented the movie The Last Match along the presentation of Kayra Lee Naranjo, Kriss Du Cecile and Yara Novotna as the host. The last day of the festival was on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at La Tertulia,Mayagüez with the presentation of Boriqueer short films and the presentation of Mileyshka Vyrux D’Nile.
The reason for celebrating the Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest near the UPRM can be related with the LGBTT struggle. UPRM Professor Luis Nieves said, “these activities open a space to discuss equality, gender identity and civil rights of the LGBTT population.”
On the other hand, Omar Palermo, UPRM Hispanic studies graduate student, responded to that, “students are educated people who are at the forefront, to eradicate homophobia we have to teach our children respect and acceptance of what is not heteronormative.”
The Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest was organized by CARIB with the collaboration of CINEMATHEQUE. The films presented during the festival were documentary, short films and movies from the last two years. CARIB also included to the festival, a team from the organization that would be doing free HIV tests to people who wanted to be checked.
At the right side of the entrance of La Tertulia, there was a stand where some members of CARIB hosted the free HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases tests and safe sex kits. Inside La Tertulia, a crowd was waiting for the festival to start in a salon. The salon was filled with chairs and tables. The walls were a combination of dark and light colors but the stage was black with the flag of Puerto Rico’s at the left side of the wall.
When everyone sat, a member of CARIB thanked everyone for coming and announced that they were soon going to begin showing the short films. Five minutes later a mix of songs was played and Miss Vyrux appeared out of nowhere on stage and started to dance. Everyone was bedazzled by Miss Vyrux’s sudden presentation. When she stopped dancing and thanked the public, Miss Vyrux received a great amount of applauses. In relation to how Miss Vyrux was well received by the public, Gaddiel F. Ruiz Ramos, actor and major in Hispanic studies at UPRM, said, “a cultural presence that can make people uncomfortable during an activity can help raise awareness of the LGBTT struggle.”
The first film presented was a documentary titled Queer Screen (Pantalla Queer). The documentary was about the visibility of LGBTT people in television; it gave a brief history of actors that have interpreted LGBTT characters like Victor Alicea who interpreted Guille for the show “Entering by the Kitchen”, and Sunshine Logroño who has been interpreting the gay character Vitin. But it was also described in the documentary how people fear that the visibility of LGBTT characters in television might affect the heteronormative and how they make fun of the characters.
According to GLAAD’s recent investigation, from 101 movies released in 2012 by 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Brothers, only 14 movies had LGBTT characters. In relation to one of those 14 movies, Diane Anderson-Minshall, writer for The Advocate said in an article published on November 29, 2012, “ParaNorman is the first mainstream animated film with a main character that is gay; it’s the perfect animated film for our time because it tackles bullying and tolerance.”
Wilson Cruz, member of GLAAD, said to the press: “as a major influence in American culture, the lack of LGBT characters in big-budget films needs to change.” He added that “until LGBTT characters are depicted in these films in a substantial way with more regularity, there will remain the appearance of LGBT bias on the studios’ part.”
The second short movie presented was Saturday of Glory. The film was about the relation between a mother and her lesbian daughter. The movie emphasizes on common conflicts between a mother and her daughter. But it could be seen the daughter’s perspective on how she would like to have a better relationship with her prejudice mother, Gloria.
The third movie was The Mirror’s Ceremony. The film was about a man who missed his dead mother and standing in front of a mirror he put on her makeup and clothes, remembering the times he spent with her. The way the story was developed left the opportunity to have different interpretations of the film.
The last short film was Alex and Fabio are No Longer. The movie was about another daily theme, relationships. The film examines the relationship between Alex and Fabio how they fell in love and how they broke up.
After the last short film, Puerto Rican Filmmaker Alejandro D. Orengo Colón presented the cast and talked about their experience filming the scenes. He said that an issue that the crew encountered filming was that a cop requested them to leave the area because the scene where Alex and Fabio were sitting under a tree was indecent. In response to that, Orengo said to the public, “our goal was to reach daily topics like relationships; this incident demonstrates that people think that a queer film can’t be a family film.”
On the other hand, Josué Palermo, UPRM student major in history, added: “queer films are very important because they teach people that we are human beings like any other person.”