Chinese-American director Li Cheng lived in Central America for two years interviewing gay and marginal youth, and learning about Guatemalan culture and history, in preparation for his second feature film, José.
The film follows 19-year-old José, who lives at home with his religious mother in hardscrabble Guatemala City. He manages to sneak off for the occasional motel hookup, but when he meets Luis, a construction worker from the Caribbean coast, José is forced to make choices he would rather avoid making. Working in a gritty, realist style with an impressive cast of nonprofessional actors, José captures the thrill of love and sex in an environment that’s not conducive to either of them.
The tender, loving care Cheng applied to the subject matter certainly paid off in this sweet and moving drama, which won the Queer Lion at last year’s Venice International Film Festival.