Men Of Hard Skin **
Starring: Wall Javier, Germán Tarantino, Claudio Medina, Juan Salmieri
Director: José Celestino Campusano
We all know the stories of how Catholic priests have abused their positions in communities around the world. Some of the worst of these cases were in rural communities in South America, which is what we explore here.
Ariel (Javier) is barely of age but is in love with the priest (Tarantino) who has been abusing him for years. As the boy starts trying to make more public displays of their relationship, the older man rejects him, pointing him toward people his own age. But as Ariel turns his affections toward Julio, a farmhand (Salmieri) working on his father’s land, the priest finds it impossible to let him move on without him.
This is a piece about the very nature of abuse. Though Ariel has been exploited sexually, it is the priest’s manipulative control over the vulnerable young man that is most revealing. Ariel settles into a cycle of abuse on his own, attempting to bait Julio using the same behaviours as we know the priest will have used on him. In one scene we witness the priest exposing himself to another child no more than ten and it’s clear this film is intent on hitting the “shock” button as often as it can, handling a controversial subject with very little sensitivity whatsoever.
As Ariel matures, he meets other men like Julio. Sex is simply sex here, with the characters and the film using it as functional, with no link to feelings or relationships. These are not gay men but men who have sex with men (MSMs), who have grouped together for their shared interest, rather than their feelings for each other.
It’s difficult to like any of these characters, who are all victims and abusers jointly. It doesn’t help that the acting is pretty terrible at times too. A controversial film that is trying a little too hard to shock, this certainly isn’t pleasant viewing for a Friday night in.
OUT ON 14TH OCTOBER ON DVD AND ON DEMAND, RELEASED BY TLA RELEASING.