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Retablo, The Silk and The Flame
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Two films touch on the subject of homosexuality, in very different ways due to cultural differences.

In this beautiful black and white documentary, THE SILK AND THE FLAMEby Jordan Schiele, Yao, the youngest son of three, comes to celebrate the Chinese New Year with his family in the center of China. The mother suffers from speech impairment; the father spends most time in bed waiting to die. Both his sister and brother’s family live not far away in houses that Yao has paid for but there is an unstated pressure that is hovering over Yao’s head. Despite his financial success in Beijing, the family still has expectations that one day he will marry and have children. Yao suffers between these feelings that his father won’t die just because he has not succeeded in what matters to them the most. Telling his parents that he is homosexual is very difficult and even by the end of his visit he has the feeling that they already know that but it is irrelevant to them. They still want that Chinese bride in the picture in order not to lose face.

Jordan Schiele said that he decided to shoot in black and white because China is so exotic and with all the colors one loses the focus of the story. In some ways the film feels like that Yao is also lost in his own indecisiveness. He should make a stand one way or the other or the next Chinese New Year will be the same.

This beautiful, richly colored Peruvian film RETABLOby Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio L. follows a father-son relationship in the mountains of Peru. Noe is a highly respected artisan who creates altarpieces called retablos and brings them to various festivals and ceremonious events for various families and churches spread out among the mountainside.  His son Segundo is desperately trying to learn the tricks of the trade from his father but lacks the finess that his father holds in his creative hand.

It is thought that the retablo is an altarpiece that can also restore the damage done in relationships or events that have gone wrong. The mix between the Quechua and Catholic religion creates a strong patriarchal society and unfortunately the festivals demand excess drinking among male members. It is on one of these occasions that Segunda learns about his father’s sexual preferences although he is married to his mother. Segundo never doubts the love of his father although he has to struggle within himself to find his own place in society as well as forgiving his father’s actions as well as the community.

Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio L. has created a beautiful story about love on several levels. The landscape with its rugged mountains makes for an incredible backdrop to the colorful dresses and rich flowers and vegetables that are a central part of the Peruvian culture. It is a profound portrait of a man locked into a society that is inflexible and, due to that rigidity, there is only one outcome for the father. The son on the other hand has strength and hope. He represents a new generation that might be able to change society. This film rightly received a deserved honorable mention for best film in the section Generation 14plus.