Venezuela may be known as a country of historical epics and violent films about urban delinquency, but that panorama seems to be changing rapidly. With popular comedies and award-winning art films filling out the country’s cinematic portfolio over the last few years, perhaps none have touched as taboo a topic as Liz en Septiembre (Liz in September)’s matter-of-fact portrayal of lesbianism and mortality.
Co-written and directed by Fina Torres, Liz en Septiembre follows Liz (Patricia Velasquez), a middle class professional who meets up at an idyllic tropical beach resort each September with a group of lesbian friends. This year, however, she finds herself desperately hiding the fact that she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When a beautiful newcomer named Eva shows up, Liz’s friends challenge her to seduce the young heterosexual woman, who happens to be mourning the loss of her child from cancer. As they strike up a relationship, the two women’s mutual bonds lead them to find unexpected depth in their fleeting encounter.
Filmed in Venezuela’s Parque Nacional Morrocoy, the film delights in the breathtaking tropical landscapes offered by its unique location, and thematically plays the tropical reef’s abundant life off of the film’s overarching themes of death and loss. Driven along by the indie-tropical sounds of Bomba Estereo, Liz en Septiembre recalls 90s female-empowerment throwbacks like How Stella Got Her Groove Back in its conventional style, though with a much more 21st-century vision of love and intimacy.
After a few stateside screenings at the Miami International Film Festival, Liz en Septiembre kicked off its theatrical run in Venezuela this past March. Residents of the Bay Area can catch it at San Francisco’s Frameline Film Festival from June 18-28.