Latin America is a region rich with tradition and deeply rooted in family ties, but sometimes those very things that make our cultures so special can feel like a straightjacket on our individuality – especially when it comes to taboo subjects like homosexuality and abortion. In his debut film Las malas lenguas, Colombian director Juan Paulo Laserna took these themes head-on in order to dramatize what he views as a larger problem – particularly among the Colombian upper-classes – in which one’s authentic self-expression is stifled in favor of family honor.
Las malas lenguas dramatizes the story of Manuela, a young scion of a wealthy family who is preparing a move abroad after falling in love with her best girlfriend and discovering her homosexual inclinations for the first time. Manuela’s plans become complicated, however, when she learns that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child, forcing her to choose between her own personal fulfillment and the rigid expectations of both her family and Colombia’s deeply conservative society.
Shot on a minimal budget, Las malas lenguas does not skimp on style, and the trailer showcases Laserna’s predilection for moody, atmospheric lighting, dreamlike close-ups, and slow motion shots. Manuela’s boiling internal conflict is writ large on actress Sara Montoya’s innocent face, which is both brooding and frightened without being obvious. Supporting performances seem to be a mixed bag. Overall, the trailer gives a sense of the film’s melancholy mood and internalized suspense.
Todd Haynes’ Oscar-nominated period piece Far From Heaven may be the closest cinematic equivalent to come out of the States, but such comparisons don’t do justice to how scandalous this film may be when it finally hits Colombian theaters. But Laserna is fully aware of the implications of his film. More power to him for forcing our beloved Latin American countries to start having these difficult conversations. Las malas lenguas premiered this month as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival’s Official Selection.