BFI Flare 2017: Jesús

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"18-year-old Jesús lives with his stern, somewhat unaffectionate father in Santiago, Chile. When not doing drugs, having casual sex or simply slouching in front of the TV, Jesús and his friends perform in a K-pop boyband. But his routine is thrown into chaos one evening when he and his drunken posse viciously assault a young gay man and leave him for dead. It’s an act that propels Jesús into a profound moral crisis which have severe consequences."

Jesús isn't so much a "gay movie" as a Latin American millennials movie, in the same vein as last year's stunning From Afar, or the rather more underwhelming I Promise You Anarchy. Nicolás Durán is mesmerising as the titular Jesús, whilst Alejandro Goic (in the relatively thankless role of the kid's single father) will, unexpectedly, floor you. Chile's tourist industry won't thank director Fernando Guzzoni for making Santiago look like a dystopian hell.

The sex and violence in Jesús is explicit (we were warned beforehand that some scenes were "triggering"). The attack is graphic and unrelenting, but showing that violence is necessary. The same can't be said for the sex scenes, the one thing that bothered me about Jesús. It seems to be part of a growing trend in cinema: erect penises and real (non-simulated) sex. Now, I'm no prude [see The KAOS Top 30 Porn Stars], but something about this just doesn't sit well with me. It takes you out of the film; instead of thinking the character is having sex, you're thinking about the actor. It is the actor who is physically aroused. It is the actor who is actually having sex. They're not faking it. Why are they not faking it? To titillate, provoke, to get bums on seats? There's an erect penis in Mørke Rum, too. As Tegan Jovanka said of Logopolis, "I'd prefer to see a lot less of it."

But Jesús is a gruelling drama-thriller that builds to a devastating climax (From Afar features a not dissimilar finale) and will haunt you for a long time afterwards.

Every year, KAOS reports from the annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. This year, I'll be reviewing eleven films (including a few programmes of shorts). Next time: Jesus.


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