Review: I Hate New York
by Alfonso Rivera
- Gustavo Sanchez's debut film, produced by Juan Antonio Bayona, is a vibrant documentary depicting the New York underground scene via the lives of four brave transsexuals
It’s hardly surprising that the Bayona twins (Carlos, a musician, and Juan Antonio, the director of hit films such as The Orphanage [+see also:
film profile], The Impossible [+see also:
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile] and A Monster Calls [+see also:
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile], and who is soon due to present the new film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – marking his first foray into Hollywood) wanted to support I Hate New York [+see also:
interview: Gustavo Sánchez
film profile] by the new director Gustavo Sanchez (Úbeda, Jaén, 1978) as delegated producers, because this documentary brings together freedom, truth and transgression, qualities which we are hardly overwhelmed by in modern times, be it in the cinema, or elsewhere. Sanchez’s film had its world premiere in the Premiere section at the 21st Málaga Spanish Film Festival.
The film’s title is reminiscent of the slogan we often see on t-shirts, bags and caps bought by tourists in the Big Apple: but this documentary has no time for an indulgent, pretty, photogenic and enthusiastic picture of the city and its skyscrapers. With his light and intimate camera, Sanchez slips into the city’s dark corners. It’s here that his characters have flourished for decades, fighting against the tide and daring to be who they want to be, without conventionalism, fear or attachments. For ten years, the director, also a journalist (also director of the press service at Sonar music festival in Barcelona), filmed these four individuals: transsexual activists who belong to the underground culture of the world’s capital city.
His camera accompanies these characters without labelling them, allowing them space to talk and evoke their dreams and desires, as well as their struggle to conquer their identity, leaving them "to launch missiles on stereotypes and prejudices," to use Sanchez's own words. Amanda Lepore, Sophia Lamar, Chloe Dzubilo and T De Long have intense, passionate and profound personalities. Putting them at the heart of the story allows the director to address topics that have become taboo, such as AIDS, and to expose them on the screen with the help of archival footage that reaches back for decades, when the divas of counterculture reigned supreme over the night and the punk scene.
I Hate New York – which does nothing to hide (according to Sanchez's own admission) the influence of the Dogma movement on its approach, as well as the autobiographical documentary Tarnation by Jonathan Caouette (2003) and the work of John Cameron Mitchell (more precisely Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was launched in the underground world before becoming a film on the less glamorous side of transsexuality, and then a musical on Broadway) – leaves all frivolity and unhealthy curiosity behind in order to become a faithful mirror to what revolution looks like – a way out of the established system dominated by the politically correct. It lays bare a decision to lead a life in full faith of oneself where, as one of the heroines says, "everyone must choose their own god" in order find their place in such a welcoming yet cruel metropolis that is both competitive and hard, but where anything is possible. This description might seem a little cliché, but after watching this exciting documentary about people struggling to be themselves, we’d tend to agree.
I Hate New York, with music by Arca and editing by Jaume Martí, was produced by Colosé Producciones, Silent Soundsystem and Gustavo Sanchez. It is being distributed by Agencia Freak.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.