Text: Jorge Yglesias
A hearse carrying a coffin with the “corpse” of Colombian director Theo Montoya travels through highways and streets of Medellin in a ghostly journey of remembrances of his childhood, the birth of his love for auteur cinema, his sexuality and those members of the queer community he befriended during the casting sessions of a B-movie he never made: a metaphor for a ferocious city whose spectral inhabitants constitute an army of living dead.
All along the itinerary Theo Montoya's voice-over reanimates these snippets of memories and builds a series of notes that end up creating a sort of requiem for truncated lives and desires. While watching Anhell69 one has the impression that the would-to-be movie has won a quality hard to attain as only pure “fiction”, now transformed into the anguished depiction of an uncertain future.
What Montoya puts before our eyes is the portrait of a fatherless generation, a threnody for a submerged world populated by - to use a Canettian term - packs of temporary survivors of a dystopic city where every corner seems to be under the spell of the phantom of Pablo Escobar. To add more meaning to his voyage, Montoya entrusted the steering of the car to Victor Gaviria, one of the more influential directors on young Colombian filmmakers.
Anhell69, a title derived of the blend of “angel” and “hell”, is the name of an Instagram profile of Camilo Najar, one of the film’s protagonists, a 21-year-old graphic design student who died some days after the interview. The film is always confronted with different faces of death: of Theo Montoya´s fictitious one; of people who ceased to be; of zombies wandering around. When interviewed the members of the queer community reveal a fragility that seems to attenuate and even disappear when they indulge in wild parties, but which is expressed with painful beauty in those moments when they seek protection and try to conjure their fate by embracing one another, until their “no future” destiny comes to them implacably, and then a few weeks, months or years later they will die, victims of drug abuse and violence.
This gloomy and unsettling essay on a kidnapped country where its young protagonists are potential prey for all kind of haters (narcos, guerrilla, military) is, according to Montoya, a “trans film”, not only in terms of sexual identity but also its transgression of narrative standards. Punctuated by shots of the travelling corpse, its opaque narration, fragments of interviews, images of the vampire picture he tried to make, and views of Medellin (produced thanks to its dependence on a recurring dronephilia), this fictional story inside a documentary film creates a dark canvas of uneasiness that is hard to forget.
Confronting archival footage of the signing of the peace agreement between the guerrillas and the government, terrorism and civil protests with the confessions of the young people during the casting, Montoya talks about a tragic personal experience and its imprint on the film that never was and the one he is building as a B movie of ghosts in honor of the quick and the dead.
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Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres
Anhell69 | Film | Theo Montoya | COL-ROM-FR-DE 2022 | 75’ | Black Movie Festival Genève 2023
First published: January 25, 2023