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VENICE 2022 International Film Critics' Week

Review: Anhell69


- VENICE 2022: Theo Montoya’s hybrid feature is an alarming cri de coeur about how hard it is to be young and queer in Medellín, one of Colombia’s most conservative and most dangerous towns

Review: Anhell69

Anhell69 [+see also:
interview: Theo Montoya
film profile
is certainly a work born out of true, unimaginable suffering. In his hybrid feature, showcased in this year’s Venice International Film Critics’ Week, director Theo Montoya tries to tell the viewers how hard it is to be young and queer in Medellín, one of Colombia’s largest cities but also one of its most dangerous and most conservative places, infamously known for being home to Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel. “I didn’t decide to be born. I was never asked. I was thrown into the world,” says Montoya as the opening words of his picture. Next, we see a funeral car carrying a corpse and cruising the streets of Medellín, and this scene introduces a crucial metaphor highlighting – perhaps in a slightly too obvious fashion – how the members of this community are placed at the margins of society and are victims of violence, discrimination and alienation, forced to celebrate their fellow sufferers’ funerals way too often.

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Montoya recalls the preproduction work made on his first film, a B-movie set in dystopian dimension, wherein Pablo Escobar had become “the father of a nation without any paternal reference.” In this alternate version of Medellín, ruled by violence even more than its real counterpart, there’s not enough room to bury bodies in cemeteries and ghosts gradually start cohabiting the town with the living, with ‘spectrophilia’ becoming a sexual common practice, especially among the youth.

We see the director trying to cast the lead actor through a few filmed interviews. One of the aspiring actors in particular stands out from the crowd, 21-year-old Camilo Najar, who becomes a love interest for Montoya, but will face a horrible destiny just like many others of the director’s friends.

“In Medellin, you can’t see the horizon,” says at some point Montoya and rightfully so. Surrounded by mountains, covered in darkness, devastated from soaring crime and violent protests, the Colombian city is often depicted through stunning aerial shots, which make it resemble a contemporary, real-life Gotham city.

But there’s not just doom and gloom in Montoya’s debut feature. There’s much love for cinema (since it was “the only place he could cry in”), much compassion and affection towards his dear ones and, even though the tone of his voice clearly suggests a strong feeling of resignation and sadness, the helmer still manages to deliver a closing scene boasting a bright touch. In it, Montoya places the idea of community and solidarity at the centre, and does so without falling into rhetorical trappings. It’s a tiny sparkle of hope for a new lost generation, often orphans or children of single mothers, widows and, more generally, troubled parents. Irregularly paced, somewhat mysterious and largely unconventional, Montoya at some stage defines his work as a “trans film,” and it may indeed be the right way to describe its hybrid nature, blending fiction and documentary, reality and imagination.

Anhell69 is a co-production between Desvio Visual (Colombia), Monogram Film (Romania), Dublin Films (France) and Amerikafilm (Germany). Square Eyes handles international sales.

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Photogallery 07/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Anhell69

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Theo Montoya
© 2022 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa -, Dario Caruso

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