El Canto de Colibri from director Marco Castro-Bojorquez is a wonderful and surprising documentary that screened earlier this year at Outfest in Los Angeles.
The documentary’s wonderfully metaphoric title refers to the rarely heard song of the hummingbird as it relates to the overlooked and largely unheard stories of Latino fathers – in particular, those with LGBT children. El Canto de Colibri seeks to give these fathers the opportunity to reflect – in their own words – how they feel about their children, homosexuality in general and their children as homosexuals. And it provides a rare, if not unprecedented, look into the hearts and minds of a strong but silent minority group.
Though their relationships with their children forms the crux of the documentary, it starts off with the personal histories of these fathers – their origins, mostly if not all outside of the United States, and their relationships with their own fathers.
Many of these men’s fathers were stoic, hard and did their duties as providers but didn’t offer much beyond that in terms of outward displays of love and affections toward their sons. With the concept of masculinity being what it is in the culture and the frowning such displays might engender, this was not the surprising part.
In first hearing about this documentary, I assumed the same would have been the case with the fathers who were interviewed for it. I fully expected to hear about the intense struggles they had in coming to terms with their LGBT children. I fully expected there to be tension between them and their LGBT children. And I fully expected the relationships with them and their LGBT children to be tenuous at best.
So the surprise for me was that the fathers in this documentary were outwardly loving toward their children and accepting of them – perhaps even challenging the very concept of masculinity that they were brought up under. There were even a few tears shed as some these men thought about the hardships their children could face simply by being who they are. It was very powerful stuff.
But there is one thing they didn’t challenge as it relates to the concept of masculinity as they understood it – and it led to a short but funny sequence as each of the fathers with gay sons hoped that their son wasn’t on the bottom when it came to sex.
So while there may have been some difficulty for them in coming to terms with the sexualities of their children, they all wound up coming to the same conclusion – that their job as fathers was to love their children as they are and to support them no matter what. It was as simple as that for them. It’s a model for all fathers (and mothers for that matter) to follow because it’s not about whether they like it or not. It’s just about loving their children – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or otherwise.
In the documentary, the fathers spoke first and then their children – an apropos structural choice that not only shows respect to the fathers, but also gives them that center stage to speak. In the latter half of the film, we see the fathers interact with their children in joint interviews and/or in b-roll with a voiceover. These were beautiful sights to see in light of my initial assumptions about the fathers in the documentary upon first reading about it.
El Canto de Colibri is a study in love and acceptance that should be used at every PFLAG meeting, religious conference, parenting class and political campaign. And though the documentary is in Spanish with English subtitles and subjects of varying Latino descent, every ethnic group can draw something from this documentary whether as a parent, a child, a politician, a clergyman, a sociologist or otherwise.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Marco Castro-Bojorquez