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Contracorriente (Undertow) -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- An artist is drowned by the undertow of the Peru coastline, emblematic of his life as a gay man being dragged down by a close-minded Catholic-macho community. This scrumptiously photographed World Cinema Dramatic contender here at Sundance will not likely navigate beyond gay venues or the festival circuit.

Set in a ravenously beautiful seaside fishing village in Peru, "Contracorriente" ('Undertow") contrasts the sensuous and free nature elements of the beach with the repressed and closed mindset of the villagers. It's the story of forbidden love: In this case, the drama percolates around Miguel (Cristian Mercado) and his pregnant wife and Miguel's artist lover Santiago (Manolo Cardona)

In this closed culture, Miguel tries to have it both ways, as a respectable citizen and as a man who is engaged in a gay affair. He's caught between two convergent tides: his neighbors who suspect his "sin" and his lover, who now demands to be recognized.

Filmmaker Javier Fuentes-Leon's delicately and sensuously illuminates this collision of contemporary sexuality with centuries of dogma and tradition. At times, he interjects magical realist elements into the story, which makes it confusing rather than lifting it to a higher plane of understanding.

"Contracorriente" ('Undertow") crests on a technical level. Mauricio Vidal's luminous lensing of the gorgeous coastline, punctuated by many eye-popping John Ford-like silhouettes from under cave arches, is the film's highlight.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival

Section: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Production company: Shoreline Entertainment
Cast: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo, Jose Chacaltana, Emilram Cossio, Cindy Diaz, Haydee Caceres
Director/Screenwriter: Javier Fuentes-Leon
Producer: Rodrigo Guerrero, Javier Fuentes-Leon
Executive producers: Andres Calderon, Cristian Conti, Michel Ruben, Emilie Georges, Ole Landsjoaasen, Christian Furst, Annette Pisacane
Director of photography: Mauricio Vidal
Production designer: Diana Trujillo
Music: Selma Mutal Vermeulen
Editors: Roberto Benavides, Javier Fuentes-Leon
Costume designer: Leslie Hinojosa
Sales: Brian Sweet
No rating, 100 minutes