Foreign film ‘Pelo Malo’ examines social issues

Hodges Library wrapped up the semester with the showing of award-winning foreign film, “Pelo Malo.”

Receiving the biggest turn-out of the year, Hodges Library continued its Foreign Film Series with “Pelo Malo” on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The complex drama displayed social issues in Caracas, Venezuela.

In the film, the main character, Junior, wants to straighten his hair. However, fury and obstacles stood in the way of the seemingly simple request. The film discussed the origins of homophobia in a narrow-minded community. There is an underlying affection driving Junior’s mother’s frantic need to stanch Junior’s “feminine tendencies”, despite her aggressive tendencies towards him.

When discussing the dynamic between the mother and Junior, Dr. Dawn Duke, a professor of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Tennessee, said, “There is a two prong concern here that she is aware of and she doesn’t know how to deal with… So, she kind of does what people at her level, in terms of education and social class, do: they go homophobic.”

Duke emphasized that the mother acted the way she did because of fear for the survival of her child.

“His survival depends on it… in that setting… it is just a reality,” Duke said. “A very basic reality.”

She furthered the point by reiterating that it is a reality in many places. Additionally, the film demonstrates someone who is unable to show their true self to society due to fear of abuse or even death if they do.

Though UT works to create a diverse environment for students by establishing programs such as the Pride Center, problems still arise on campus. Recently, the “Rock”, a famous university landmark and an original tool for expression at UT, made news due to its exploitation throughout the semester. This included swastikas being painted on it after the Pittsburgh shooting vigil. These hate driven acts caused students and faculty to call for diversity and acceptance across campus.

“I think we need more international presence on campus. Within the student body, among staff and among professors, on all three levels, I think we need more diversity on campus so then all of us will get used to the idea,” Duke said. “I think the University space has to work to be a space of enlightenment…it has to do with direction, orientation, and leadership. And sometimes I feel we could do a better job in our leadership.”

“Pelo Malo” was shown originally in the United States as an independent film in festivals in San Francisco, Seattle and at the Frameline Film Festival– a notable LGBTQ+ film festival. The portrayal of homophobia and other controversial issues in Caracas, Venezuela won “Pelo Malo” 13 awards, among them the Freedom of Expression-Honorary award and the Best Film Award. The director and writer, Mariana Rondón, won the Best Director and Best Screenplay awards.

Hodges Library plans to continue the Foreign Film series next semester.

Featured Photo by Grace Goodacre

Edited by Lauren Claxton, Ainsley Kelso