Can gay men be homophobic, and show a lack of understanding towards the key points and principles of the LGBT movement? Chilean comedy-drama Shining Moon (El Destello de la Luna) explores this theme, showing that even older gay men, old enough to have been around during the origins of the gay liberation movement, aren’t immune from discriminatory beliefs towards a more developed LGBT culture. With a warm comic touch, the film explores the differences between two different generations, allowing for its characters to confront their prejudices without forcing any unbelievable character developments.
Renato (Ricardo Herrera) and Ivan (Pablo Sotomayor Prat) are two ageing gay actors living in Chile – work has dried up, and yet their perfectionist approach to acting means that they often turn down any roles offered to them, even if they may help pay the bills. Their dull routine is soon given a shot of life by the appearance of young filmmaker Anibal (Maximiliano Meneses) who wishes to cast the pair in his film about two elderly transvestites. The only issue is that the pair harbour various prejudices, both conscious and unconscious, towards characters who don’t fit into their conformist views as to what a gay man is. As the pair don drag and get under the skin of these characters for the production, they find themselves slowly embracing the challenge of bringing these characters to life – and finding out more about themselves in the process.
Director and co-writer Gustavo Letelier, who collaborated on the screenplay with Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, excels in not exaggerating the prejudices Renato holds for comedic purposes. Yes, he is a man who is close to becoming a caricature of a washed up actor due to his incessant diva-aping behaviour when it comes to having his say on choosing projects, but his character flaws outside of this seem believable for a man of his age. At one point, he waxes lyrical about his lack of understanding of “queer” people and his distaste as to how they don’t conform a traditional gender identity; the film doesn’t support this sentiment, but tries to showcase in as non-judgemental a light as possible in order to highlight that, even among the supposedly liberal LGBT community, prejudice still remains.
The film’s final third is largely devoted to the first stages of production for the film, with both characters getting into their roles for the first time. This stage of the movie could be potentially alienating, with the performers acting against threadbare backdrops that recall Lars Von Trier’s deliberately minimalistic drama Dogville – although it does help draw us further into the characters, as they finally disappear into characters they barely saw themselves within only moments earlier.
As shown in the recent Oscar winning foreign language film A Fantastic Woman, Chile is one of the most progressive countries in South America when it comes to LGBT policies – the issue is the rest of society is constantly playing catch-up. Shining Moon (El Destello de la Luna) explores this observation from a different angle, showing how even the gay community can become so detached from important issues surrounding itself, making for a unique character drama in the process.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Gustavo Letelier