In 21 minutes Mexican filmmaker Julian Hernández introduces Christian Rodríguez to the viewer. However, it’s the former who actually introduces himself from the very first frames: from his pseudonym, his skin color, his body type; but he also brings to the table his rate: $1,500 per hour. Therefore, if the title of the short film hadn’t already rung a bell, this little preface may tell us what this is going to be about: sex — at least partly.
Christian goes on with an overview of his life: his origin — a little town in the Mexican provinces; his childhood — describing himself as an extremely effeminate, obviously homosexual child. Thereupon he relates what growing up as a young gay man would be later; what it’s like to endure insults but at the same time having to cope with one’s sexual identity all by oneself in a close-minded and conservative society. Just picture it. If it’s a tough task in the big cities, how do you think it is in such small parts of the world? He relates this, however, with such fluency and, well, it’s not humorously, but he doesn’t play a victimized role either; he is rather the testimony of overcoming, something that didn’t occur to him just suddenly but by moving to other parts of Mexico, widening his experiences, following his passions, and, well… just living.
So this short film is partly about sex and sexual identity but there’s still one very important remaining part which makes of this film, in my opinion, a beautiful movement in itself. I’m talking about dancing — dancing as entertainment, as art, as expression, as the means to earn a living. Thus, Christian states his fervent love for dancing, though not in a professional way, he says, until the time when he moved to Mazatlán to pursue his studies and heard on the radio about some dancing contest (which he wins, by the way). It’s then when one of the judges of the contest invites Christian to work as a dancer at the hotel where the event took place. “That’s when everything begins for me,” Christian says. While he narrates all of this we can see some kind of class he’s giving — and he certainly is such great dancer, if I’m asked! It happens in a plain, small and dimly lit room at a gym; but Julián Hernández’s vision renders vividness and colorfulness to the cinematographic experience through the music, the dancing shoes, the intermittent shots of the rapid movements of those cheerful bodies as if celebrating human anatomy.
This is when opportunities start coming from everywhere and Christian is invited to work as a professional dancer. ‘Professional’, what a word and how struck he was by it. Nonetheless he makes up his mind about attending an audition to which he was invited. Albeit concurred, he wins the contest and he’s given an opportunity to professionally begin his career, not as a dancing-man, but rather as a dancer. Like in the above paragraph, while this narration takes place, a reverie of sorts shows up, wherein our now professional dancer runs a captivating performance to some sort of Ligeti-like atmospheric piece of music.
Subsequently, Christian moves to Mexico city, being 22 years old and with a made-up mind about waisting no time and getting to build a great career. Intermittent reverie frames take place once more and Christian performs for his audience once more. Unfortunately for him (and many others) art is simply unprofitable, and that’s when dancing and prostitution blend. The bright side, I think, would be that Christian takes it pretty well, claiming to have no other vice than sex, just many people are weak for alcohol or cigarettes. His habits and procedures as an escort are depicted quite faithfully and we can even witness (fictionally) how a young man hires Christian for his birthday, for which the latter gives him a ‘nice present’ — that is a striptease that ends up in casual sex and a shower. Intertwined with this brief episode, we get to know more details about Christian’s secondary profession.
Lastly the viewer is ushered into a gay bar in Mexico city where Christian performs live at a bar — a performance which seems to include some sensual movements, including that of a fictitious masturbation (fictitious, as far as we know). He finally expresses his love for it, for his two vices in an ideal mixture for him: dancing and sensuality.
There are many erotic scenes in the film, but I think it’s not that hard to watch for someone who isn’t used to it. It’s not more explicit than any other contemporary pop music video that many regard as normal these days. On the other hand, speaking of so-called normality, there are many films that are supposed to be made for a straight public to help them understand the kind of sexuality that resides outside the pale: either homosexuality or transsexuality or bisexuality; but my point is that such tags as “gay-themed films for straight people” would be unnecessary if more people gave a chance to films like this. Of course most of this kind of projects’ public are gay people: those who can relate to it, people who look for their spot in the history of art. But it’s not exclusive whatsoever to them. This film, for instance, is a magnificent way to get to know about something we’re not offered quite often; and instead of being prejudicial, we have the opportunity to realize what’s behind all of it. This film works as a lens to see life through someone else’s eyes while Hernández is only rendering the eyeglass. Because personally, albeit its shortness, few lengthy queer film have ever made me think of it as a proclamation of homosexuality, specially in Mexico, and of the struggle of making a living through art, regardless of the artist’s sexuality. Unlike Julian Hernandez’s previous work, this is not slow-paced, but it’s rather like a flashing daydream; unlike his previous films, this is not an event in someone’s life, but a whole life told in a picturesque play of colors and movements; it’s told in 21 short and worthy minutes.