Bruising for Besos
This just-under-an-hour-and-a-half Latina lesbian drama has a strong forward thrust in the writing and direction, some excellent acting, and a favorable attitude of "guess who's lez, bi, straight or trans? We ain't gonna tell you directly."
Yoli (writer and director Adelina Anthony) is an early 30s butch who is relatively famous for her short-term relationships with other beautiful women, brown and black. She lives with her best friend, Rani (D'Lo), who might be a man or another butch, or even Trans - with that Mohawk you can't tell.
At her birthday party, beautiful Puerto Rican fem, Dana (Carolyn Zeller) flirts strongly enough for Yoli to get her message across and soon enough they commence a torrid affair. But Dana is strongly Catholic and harbors serious self-hate for her sexual orientation, which interferes with the building of the relationship.
Unhappily, Yoli has spent her adulthood trying to come to grips with her own history of home violence from an abusive father and a weak mother. She uses self-made puppets to act out her inner fears and thoughts, a rather clever use of puppetry. Rani and his/her lady, Carmela (Natalie Camunas) room with Yoli, but her erratic behavior creates a friction with them and other friends and co-workers.
Anthony's script is tight, using Spanglish (with subtitles when necessary) to confirm the authenticity of her story, quite ably abetted by Catalina Ausin's moody cinematography, using shades of darkness to heighten the tensions, tight editing by Augie Robles, and a Spanish-influenced soundtrack by Alex Valenzy.
This is a good tale about folk who are seldom portrayed today: Latina lesbians, carrying the same kind of baggage everyone else does and given positive portrayals here, in spite of a lot of self-destructive behaviors. Shot in Los Angeles, it's way beyond barrio-stereotyping, with fine acting by Anthony, D'Lo and Zeller, and everyone else, illuminating the lives of The Other.