115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Body as Space in Javier Fuentes-León’s Undertow

This is an analysis of how the presence of a ghostly body is actually a representation of the protagonist’s own self in Javier Fuentes-Leon’s film Undertow. I also argue to what extent the film can be viewed as a transgressive film – going against the grain like an undertow -that challenges Latin America’s heteronormative patriarchy.

Proposal: 

Undertow/Contracorriente (Peru 2009) is one of the more internationally successful Latin American films in recent years (spoiler alert). The ópera prima of director Javier Fuentes-León tells the love story of two men in a small fishing town in Peru: Miguel, a local fisherman and Santiago, an outsider. Early in the film we realize that the two men are clandestine lovers. Santiago dies and for the rest of the film Miguel must interact with Santiago’s ghost and figure out how to help Santiago move on to the afterlife. In my analysis, I argue that the ghost of Santiago is actually a representation of Miguel’s own self and I demonstrate how in helping Santiago, Miguel uses the ghost’s body as a space to work out his issues with his own sexuality. I also analyze to what extent the message of the film and the way the characters are presented can be viewed as a transgressive film – going against the grain like an undertow -that challenges Latin America’s heteronormative patriarchy.