Unapologetic sexuality in independent films, a conversation with – The Trace of your Lips – Director and Co-Writer Julián Hernández.

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Picture this:
Covid-related issues at the very beginning of 2020, the struggles of finding
love during a world pandemic, beautifully shot frames in this colorful and
diverse place: Mexico City.  “THE TRACE OF YOUR LIPS”  had it all for an
intriguing and captivating film and believe me when I say this: that’s exactly
what it delivered.

My attention was
drawn the most to a very specific way of showing the human body. Several scenes
presented nudity in its full glory. Frontal, sincere, natural, and relatable
nudity that is. The rawness of these interactions tends to resemble our lives a
little closer, and makes us all find ourselves and our experiences, somehow
portrayed on the screen. 

Aldo dancing in his apartment. *

After the film
was presented at the
Chéries-Chéris festival in Paris, I had the
opportunity to interview Director and co-Writer Julián Hernández. “
La huella
-as they affectionately call it- is his 7
th production. They all
have his signature imprinted. That is raw, unapologetic sexuality, which
usually comes with many sex scenes, blunt sincere conversations before and
after sex, and an inability to be dosed to the audience. 

Aldo and Covid patrols. *

As far as
inspiration for his stories, the exploitability of feelings as portraited by
R.W Fassbinder gets a special place. For “La huella” specifically, Covid
pandemic served as the main giver. He remembers how the writing process began
in February of 2020, when news and social media were flooded with an impending
pandemic. However, AIDS epidemic in the 80s marked him in a personal level and
he wanted the fear and anguish of those days to also be somehow shared during
the film.

Some of his muse
also comes from personal experiences during early years in life, and it gives
him the confidence to deliver the message despite his usually controversial
point of view. Several of his stories are fictional truths from encounters that
frustrated him or piqued his interest.

Román looking out his window. *

        He remembers a
stranger from the building next door, who used to throw pebbles at his window,
aiming for attention. This led to months of intrigue, desire, and carnal build-up.
That was the origin of all sexual tension shown to us through reflections and
windows between the main characters of his latest movie.  

Queer culture is
also a priority for Julián. Erotic scenes, honest sexual encounters that made
more than one sweat, and hookup culture shown in a more transparent and honest
way, they all give us a taste of reality through his lens.

of all types of relationships, beyond a traditional marriage institution seems
to be a frequent goal for the director. We talked about the evolution of
queerness in independent films made in Mexico, as many roles and interactions
traditionally seen on the screen come from a stereotypical point of view. And
although this conversation in Latino films has changed in recent years, there’s
still some catching up to do.

I also learned
about some of the biggest challenges the production team faced, as they
included Nahuatl in the film, even for a few minutes. Their intention
was to convey a message of inclusion and diversity, beyond sexual orientation.

They made that
happen with Aldo, a Mexican native retail worker who wanted nothing but love, and
who shows us the shades of a struggling millennial during Covid. We see him
working as an actor, jumping between two languages: Spanish and Nahuatl
-the most spoken indigenous language in Mexico-, flirting with more than one
soul, but the main attention falls on his skills as an online sex-worker.

One of the
sexiest, most anticipated scenes of the film takes place when a cop storms into
Román’s apartment, while sirens were loudly sounding in the back. An
aggressive, extra-touchy, masked man starts harassing the lonely actor, and it
slowly leads to a steamy encounter between the two men. But it all becomes
blurry when the cop starts stripping down, and a pair of denim shorts pops – a
fetich Román had for the awaited session between the two main characters. 

Aldo and Román crossing paths. * 

            It’s not a secret that there’s more diversity at the moment in independent films and one of the main fuels is writers and crews willing to make these stories, and fight stereotypes. There’s also more acceptance and inclusive point of views from main-stream channels. More voices are being heard these days.

          By themselves, two very difficult point to touch. What one would consider two separate rabbit holes. Covid-19 pandemic and dating in the gay world. Julián -and cowriter Gustavo Hernández- managed to feed us both in their last film. They did so with limited resources, and during a world pandemic, but with a clear mission to continue supporting representation of all kinds in the independent industry, especially in Hispanic films.

By Gabriel Evaristo 

*Pictures by Tochiro Gallegos. Mexico city, 2023

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