Tu Me Manques as a play transformed Bolivia’s perception of gay people
Even after tracking down the director of Tu Me Manques in the middle of the Amazon [listen to our conversation here rushboxapp.com/OIJ Rodrigo Bellott Tu Me Manques.mp3, we’re still not sure how much of the story conveyed in the film is real.
What we do know is that the play portrayed within the film truly transformed Bolivia’s perception of gay people in that country back in 2014, bringing them out of the shadows to such a great extent that the play’s impact became known as the “Tu Me Manques Effect.”
Will the film now have the same impact on the world? It could. Judge for yourself.
Sebastian, or Sebas, as his friends call him, “like the fish,” is an out and comfortable Bolivian man living in New York City, much like Rodrigo Bellott himself, a native Bolivian who lived in New York City for many years and whose tragic loss of his boyfriend was the inspiration for this transformational play that is now a movie.
Also from Bolivia, and also gay, is the character of Gabriel, who hides his sexuality and his boyfriend Sebas from his religious and homophobic family back in his native country. The pain and guilt, and self-hatred that come from his family’s lack of acceptance drive Gabriel to suicide.
No spoiler alert here because Gabriel’s suicide is no surprise. Rather, it is the setup, the setup for the play that Sebas wrote by channeling his emotions following the untimely death of his lover. It is the setup for this new film about this inspirational play . . . and so much more.
Inspired by a true story, Tu Me Manques is set primarily in New York City, with some scenes in Bolivia. The film’s dialogue alternates between English and Spanish (with subtitles).
Empathy for the Father
The story is shown through flashbacks as Sebas tells Gabriel’s father about who his son really was. “I want the truth,” implores Jorge, Gabriel’s father, after he realizes that it’s too late to learn it directly from his own son.
At first, Sebas explodes, “You have no fucking clue who your son was.” But he eventually shares Gabriel’s reality with his father, despite (or perhaps because of) Jorge’s reply, “You have no fucking clue what’s at stake here. The name of the family, the firm, the bank,” expressing how he is still wrapped up in maintaining false appearances even after his son chose to end his own unaccepted life.
While viewers naturally sympathize with Sebas as he mourns the unnecessary loss of his boyfriend, empathy also surfaces for Gabriel’s father as well. It becomes apparent that he is also trapped by the culture that drove his son to take his own life. “You all want me to be a monster. Well, I’m not one,” cries the father, who realizes too late what he has missed by allowing culture and religion to force him to turn his back on his own child.
Later in the film, the play’s producer more blatantly implores the viewer to understand Jorge: “Listen to what he says and try to see his humanity and pain behind his anger.”
Still, even while showing concern for Jorge, Sebas presents his own perspective on Bolivia’s culture in general. Citing that gay people live double lives not only in Bolivia but in most of South America. Sebas expresses his outrage at this standard with an outburst at Gabriel’s father: “This is what you people do in Bolivia. You force your children to lie from early on because you need to lie to survive in that country. It gets to the point where you believe in all the lies, and that’s death. No wonder he didn’t believe in love. They’re so afraid of not finding love that everything is reduced to sex.”
These intense emotions lead Sebas to channel those energies toward writing first a letter to his lost love, which then turns into a play, a play that really was produced in Bolivia and did actually change that country’s perceptions toward being gay. It is that play Tue Me Manques that also appears as a part of the film Tu Me Manques.
There are many Gabriels
Illustrating its broad themes of truth, loss, grief, and regret by using the time-honored technique of the play within a play is mastered in this film. The film’s director also adds his own convention by using multiple actors to play the part of Gabriel. Subtle at first and barely noticeable, the appearance of Gabriel in different shapes and sizes eventually becomes so apparent that viewers will stop questioning their own eyes and realize that while he may be packaged in the same khaki pants, polo shirt, and bold-framed glasses, the actor playing Gabriel changes not only from scene to scene but from frame to frame. Imagine the multiple takes and extensive editing that must have taken to make it look as seamless as it does.
There are varied reasons for using multiple actors that you will learn when viewing the film and also when listening to our interview with its creator Rodrigo Bellott. Tu Me Manques is not only for all the Gabriels out there afraid to live their truth for fear of being disowned by their families, but it is also for all the parents who have turned their backs on their children because they are brainwashed by their cultures.
The film even explores biblical sources religious homophobes often cite for their lack of acceptance of gays by following a citation from the book of Leviticus with, “Did you know that in the same page in Leviticus you’re quoting the Bible also condemns tattoos, shellfish, haircuts!”
Ultimately, though, even the Bible agrees that “the truth shall set you free.”
‘Art Is the Only Lie That Tells the Truth’
The film Tu Me Manques culminates in the performance of part of the play Tu Me Manques that transformed Bolivia’s perception of homosexuality. “We dedicate this to the truth,” the play’s performers exclaim in unison.
“Art is the only lie that tells the truth,” the film concludes, and it is this truth found in this art that proves its power for change. In 2014, Tu Me Manques as a play transformed Bolivia, allowing gay people to be open and honest, and it enabled the culture to see and accept them for who they truly are. Now, Tu Me Manques is a film for all the world to see.
Will it influence a “Tu Me Manques effect” worldwide? Time will tell.
Watch the film here: www.amazon.com/Tu-Me-Manques-Fernando-Barbosa
And gain further insight into the origins and the making of both the play and the film directly from Rodrigo Bellott in this audio interview with Out In Jersey: rushboxapp.com/OIJ Rodrigo Bellott Tu Me Manques.mp3.