Intersection of Queerness and Race

By Laura M. Olivieri

The movie Gun Hill Road was presented on March 6, as part of the program of the V ¿Coloquio Del otro la’o? held in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Movie screenings where held everyday of the colloquium, the selection of films focused on the intersection of queer sexualities and race.

 Pictured is the programed film cycle that took place at the colloquium.

Pictured is the programed film cycle that took place at the colloquium.

Gun Hill Road, written and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival on 2011. The film tells the story of an ex-con who arrives home and has to deal with the fact that his son is a developing transsexual. Race plays a crucial role in the storyline, situated in the Bronx, amongst Latino people.

A Professor from the humanities department and the event coordinator, Lissette Rolón, , proposed to the dozen people who attended the screening to keep three questions in mind in order to participate in the discussion: “What does the movie propose about the theme of queerness and race?, How can we make the situation more familiar? What are the implications of the movie’s proposal?” The film’s protagonist, Harmony Santana is actually a transgender actress. When Green found his protagonist, Santana, she had not started her process of becoming a woman. Santana won Best Supporting Actress in the Independent Spirit Awards for her performance on the film.

The official poster for the film Gun Hill Road (2011).

This film is centered on social issues for transgender people, Rashaad Ernesto Green decided to emphasize problems due to culture, social strata and family. The handful of people that participated in the discussion after the film made it very clear. The interpretation of the movie was richer because the audience shared the same culture as the protagonists: Puerto Rican.

Another central issue in the film was the intersection between queerness and people of color. One audience member pointed out, during the discussion, that culture plays a big role when coming to term with your sexuality.

Professor Lisette Rolón said in a post-screening interview that she chose the films for the screenings based on different criteria. Children of God, which was screened on March 4, has been recognized and prized by members of the queer community. The World Unseen, which was screened on March 5, and Gun Hill Road were selected because of their rich queer and race content.