Venice Film Festival 2020: Rodrigo Sepulveda’s Chilean drama, ‘My Tender Matador’, is about a young revolutionary and an ageing homosexual

Posted on September 11, 2020

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I would have liked to know the source of Carlos’s feelings for Queen, whatever they were. But how can we hope to define something that he himself hasn’t fully grasped?

A film festival is a place to discover great films, yes, but sometimes, even a not-bad (i.e. decidedly un-great) film can prove worthwhile. On the surface, Rodrigo Sepulveda’s Chilean drama, My Tender Matador (Tengo miedo torero), is yet another story of an unlikely friendship between two very different people: a young revolutionary named Carlos (Leonardo Ortizgris) and an aging homosexual/transvestite (Alfredo Castro) who calls herself Queen. But what matters to outsiders like us is the quick, hour-and-a-half tour of what it was probably like to be in Santiago in the spring of 1986, when people were openly protesting against Pinochet’s dictatorship. You can Wiki up this stuff all you want, but watching it is still something else.

Plus, My Tender Matador introduces at least some of us to the Chilean writer Pedro Lemebel, whose 2001 novel is this film’s source. The press note says that Lemebel was a staunch defender of the socially marginalised, “becoming a true icon of counterculture”. Tengo miedo torero (2001) was his first novel translated to English, and it’s around this time that the writer acquired his last name, which is his mother’s. (His paternal last name was Mardones.) From Wikipedia: “Lemebel is a gesture of femininity, to engrave a maternal last name, to acknowledge my (washer) mother in light of the illegality of homosexual(s) and transvestite(s).”

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