Monday, April 03, 2017

Flare: Heartland

Two very different films set in the American southwest show the limits set on queer behaviour.

The very powerful documentaryl Southwest of Salem outlines the appalling treatment of four women in San Antonio, Texas convicted of child rape in the 1990s, in part because of a religious panic and in part because of anti-lesbian sentiment: "They think this is what gay people do," one of them explains. "No, it's not." Over a number of years the women discuss their lives and we get to know them through their testimony and that of family members and supporters. Eventually, their case comes to the attention of an advocacy group and the wheels of justice begin to move ever so slowly. But, one is forced to reckon with the tremendous power of hearsay, bigotry, and misogyny that allowed the case to proceed in the first place. Sobering.

Not so with the drama Heartland, set in Oklahoma, as a local girl returns home after the death of her partner to find her hometown and family unchanged and unmoved. Having an affair with her brother's girlfriend does not exactly endear her to her mother, who refuses to even acknowledge the death of her girlfriend. The set-up is fantastic but the film falls apart in the third act with ridiculous over-acting and melodramatic music underscoring the emotion. Oh, dear. Why not just let it flow? I found myself only really rooting for the unfortunate interloping girlfriend rather than the annoying family. She had a lucky escape.

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