By: Joseph R. Castel

As the entertainment awards’ season approaches, PR machines all over the world are cranking out press junkets and screeners to entice journalists into covering their movies. In the last few months, Adelante’s been bombarded with screening invites and online screeners.

One LGBTQ film that’s garnered some recognition is director Miguel Ángel Ferrer’s award-winning feature film, The Shadow of the Sun (La Sombra del Sol). It’s Venezuela’s official entry into the best foreign film category at this year’s Academy Awards. It has yet to be officially selected by the Academy, but the film’s producers are working the free screening circuit, coast to coast, to help secure an Oscar nomination.

Winner of the Best Latin American Film Award at the Monterrey Film Festival in Mexico, The Shadow of the Sun is an inspiring story about a man who tries to get out of his emotional and financial straits by returning to his love of music by entering a national singing contest. Ferrer focuses the on the excruciating poverty that engulfs Venezuela’s people and their desperate attempts to escape their dire circumstances.

“We want to show the world the resilience, joy, and creativity of the Venezuelan people,” says the director. “Despite the difficulties and challenges we face on a daily basis; our spirit never ceases to dream for a better tomorrow.”

Alex (Anyelo Lopez) is a deaf young, baker who convinces his macho, protector, brother Leo, (Carlos Manuel Gonzales) into entering the music contest. Although deaf, Alex can compose music and write lyrics. He pens a song for his brother to sing, but Leo must put his former bandmates, all of whom have moved on, together again in an attempt to win the contest in Caraccas.

Although the film has noble intentions by focusing on a talented, deaf gay character, the plot of the main character trying to break into show business through a national talent show is not exactly original material.

The real prize for this movie is lead actor, Carlos Manuel Gonzales who plays the toughie brother, Leo. The Venezuelan actor is Guillermo del Toro and Javier Bardem rolled into one. He’s a dynamic acting force to be reckoned with and worth the price of admission.

The Wind and the Reckoning

One of the most cinematic films in the running for this year’s awards’ season is The Wind and the Reckoning, by director David L. Cunningham. Set on Kauai in 1893, an outbreak of leprosy causes the newly formed U.S. government to banish those suspected of having the contagious disease to live in a remote leper colony on the island of Moloka’i. The film’s based on real-life events as told through the memoirs of a woman named Pi’ilani, published in 1906, titled, The True Story of Kaluaikoolau.

In the film, Pi’ilani’s husband and son have leprosy, but her husband, Ko’olau (Jason Scott Lee) refuses to be separated from his wife, and an armed clash breaks out between the handful of Hawaiians that have leprosy and mercenaries made up of U.S. army soldiers. It’s refreshing to see that Pi’ilani’s character is also a warrior who takes up arms, just as her husband does, instead of acting like some helpless, frail woman.

It’s shocking how much history still remains hidden and whitewashed when it comes to people of color in this country. In Hawaii, this epic story is well known, but not so much outside the islands. What makes this true story so amazing is that a small band of Hawaiians suffering from leprosy courageously takes on the U.S. army. This film, thankfully, doesn’t paint all white people with a broad stroke of racism. The Island’s history is complex with immigrants coming from Asia and the West, and many of them work and live side-by-side in peace, as demonstrated in the film. It’s even a white rancher, known as “Uncle” who helps the family escape the deputies’ clutches.

The film is spoken primarily in Hawaiian and subtitled in English, which makes it one of the first Hawaiian language films with an international distribution. The acting is phenomenal, led by the beautiful Lindsay Marie Anuea Watson as Pi’ilani. She may appear as an alluring heroine, but she has more than just looks and bravery, she’s one sharp-shooting sister who doesn’t miss her mark when she aims her gun. The outcome of the story may just surprise you.