Film review: El Canto del Colibri, directed by Marco Castro-Bojorquez

El Canto del ColibriDir., Castro-Bojorquez, Marco. El Canto del Colibri. Frameline (Dist.), 2015. Documentary, In Spanish with English Subtitles. 53 min. Educational DVD Price (Incl. PPR): $295, Discounted DVD Price for LGBTQ Centers (Incl. PPR): $150, Home Video Version for Public Libraries (No PPR): $25.

In the media, the Latino/a culture is profoundly underrepresented. Most of the stories one often hears are negative in connotation and involve immigration or racial profiling, according to Serafín Méndez-Méndez and Diane Alverio of the National Association of the Hispanic Journalists. Because of this fact, El Canto del Colibri is such an unprecedented and important documentary for the Latino/a community and GLBTQ culture.

Funded by crowdsourcing and nonprofits like BAYCAT and Somos Familia, El Canto del Colibri tackles queer culture in the Latino/a community head-on with interviews from Latino fathers. These men, who have grown up in and are accustomed to living in a world filled with machismo, are asked honest questions about their background, views, and their own sons and daughters who identify with the GLBTQ community.

These fathers hail from all sorts of backgrounds — some were illegal immigrants, others came from a stable middle class upbringing, and yet others were exposed to alcoholism, drug use, and homelessness along the way. Yet they speak about the stereotypes that lie not only within the Latina/o culture, but also with general society — expectations of what “family” was supposed to be and look like.

While the fathers narrate their stories, personal pictures of families are seen on screen. As they describe their experiences, it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. One man stated that he had a gay brother, and it was painful for him to watch the bullying that he had to go through. He was adamant that he didn’t want that life for his son. Another man witnessed the violence that came to queer Latinos in his own community growing up, and was scared for his daughter if her sexual identity was publicly known. The influence of the machismo culture is unrelenting throughout the narratives, and it’s no wonder how the rhetoric of words like “faggot,” “queer,” and gay slang are embedded as common terms in everyday spoken language. It was hard for some of these men to see things differently when they were taught to use those terms early on, while others didn’t question their actions until it directly affected them.

Towards the later third of the film, the daughters and sons are introduced and talk about how their parents and families responded once they came out. This part is especially compelling as the viewer goes back and forth from the fathers’ testimony to his own daughter or son. Each family member describes fights that occurred or incidents that arose from the families’ being hypocritical. These consequences made the fathers question their own behaviors and motives. In the end, these issues are resolved and the viewer sees faces of fathers, sons, and daughters smiling together.

This film is traditional in the style of documentaries, but it’s displayed as an honest portrayal of what GLTBQ individuals and their families face in the Latino/a community. It is recommended for all GLBTQ collections and college class curriculums that focus on gender studies and/or stereotypes, GLBTQ identity & culture, sociology, and Latino/a culture.

Judi Tichacek
Reference Librarian
Palos Hills, IL

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3 comments

  1. We would like to express our gratitude for your excellent review of our documentary film. The positive exposure you’ve given to our film, provides the community with a nice introduction to our message of hope for our Latinx community. The film has certainty surprised us and we feel very fortunated to receive so many positive thoughts about our work, please extend our thanks to everyone involved!
    And just one minor correction would be in my last name, I totally understand how easily could happen and so, Castro-Bojorquez is my last name!
    Thank you!
    Marco

    • Thanks for the comment. I edited the review to correct the spelling of your name. Thanks for letting us know.

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