Directed by: #MiguelAngelCaballero
Written by: #MiguelAngelCaballero
The path of finding your true self is one that people all over the world struggle to walk, regardless of cultural, social, or national background. And far too often, those same backgrounds make the journey all the more difficult. Acuitzeramo is a story of self-acceptance, and one man’s struggle to attain it leads to affirming revelations after his death.
Salvador (Sal Lopez) has lived in secret with his partner Roberto in the small Mexican town of Acuitzeramo for 15 years. When Roberto passes away, Sal contacts his son Anthony (Luis Aldana) to tell him of his father’s passing. Unaware of their relationship, Anthony travels to the town to attend the funeral. Whilst he is there, the two men bond and come to terms with their roles in Roberto’s life, discovering truths about themselves in the process.
Beautifully shot and bittersweet to the soul, Acuitzeramo is a brilliant short that packs an emotional punch. Salvador’s sense of loss following his lover’s death is palpable and affecting, yet his inability to fully admit the nature of his relationship to Anthony matches this in terms of tragedy. Whilst bullish in the face of suspicious glances and whispered insults, it is his internal struggle to accept himself which is his true adversary. The mystery of Anthony’s perception of his Father, and why he left his life provides an undercurrent that is at times uncomfortable. But as we spend more time with Anthony, we discover he has complexities and secrets of his own. Director Miguel Angel Caballero expertly contrasts the pair in the initial stages, telling the audience the story largely through Salvador’s perspective with Anthony very much as an outsider whilst the pair are closed off. As Anthony learns more about his father, Caballero grants us access to his life as well. Showing us both men’s perspectives is essential in demonstrating how their meeting, despite difficult circumstances, is essential for their own self-acceptance.
Sal Lopez’ performance as Salvador is exceptional. His initial stoicism barely conceals his emotional struggles at the loss of his long-term partner, as the gloom trails him as he slowly trapses around the town. Yet his ability to brush off homophobic slurs speaks to a dignified and strong core, that can no doubt re-emerge as he recovers from trauma. Mathias Ponce is similarly affecting, though necessarily more closed-off until the film’s later stages – with his more memorable moments coming once we have seen under his shell.
The film’s plot is rather minimalist and is at its best when the focus stays with the two leads. Cutaways to dreamlike dance sequences give an ethereal quality to the film that never really feels necessary. The closing plot twist also feels overly convenient and is arguably pointless, almost weakening the plot which did not seem designed to lead up to such a development. The film’s strengths still far outweigh these stumbles, which feel included as differentiators rather than because they were natural for the film.
Tinged with sadness but emotionally uplifting, Acuitzeramo is a wonderfully shot and performed short that is a wonderful watch despite some niggling flaws. Its story of self-acceptance is a powerful message that is inspirational to those on their own journeys, whatever the nature of their own struggle may be.