Guadagnino’s follow up to his gay-themed crowd pleaserCall Me By Your Name. However, the Queer Lion endedup going to the less-ballyhooed José, the first


film from Central America to win the competition. A layered and beautifully heartfelt look at being gay in conservative Guatemala, the film will open at Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles onFriday, February 7. The movie is also scheduled to openFriday, February 14 in San Diego and onFriday, February 21in Palm Springs.

A 19-year-old José (played by Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother in

Guatemala City, where they survive on her selling sandwiches at bus stops and with him working at a restaurant. In this poor and sometimes dangerous country dominated by Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity, living as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never married, and as her youngest and favorite son she is determined to hold on to him. Reserved and private, José fills his free moments with random hookups with men arranged on his phone apps and meeting in clandestine sex houses.

When he meets theattractive and gentle Luis (Manolo Herrera), a mi-

grant from the rural Caribbean coast, an unexpected romance blooms, resulting in more emotion than José has ever felt. As he is thrust into new passion, he is pushed into a period of painful self-reflection. Will his reluctance to take a leap of faith cost him lifelong happiness?

Director Li Cheng,who is from China but now a U.S. citizen, and producer George F. Roberson lived in Guatemala for two years in their effort to makeJoséusing an all-Guatemalan cast and crew and

all non-professional actors. The filmmakers also conducted research in the 20 largest Latin American cities in 12 countries, ultimately basing their plot on interviews with hundreds of young people about their hopes and dreams. Cheng and Roberson restricted the José screenplay around answers to three key questions: Which person are you closest to in your life? What’s your most unforgettable memory? Have you been in love?

The completed film gives view-

ers hope in the new generation of young people poised to reshape the world in breathtaking ways.

The Rage Monthly was

recently able to interview lead actor Enrique Salanic.Graduate of the unique, multi-national Pearson United World College (UWC) in Victoria, British Columbia, he is ethnic Mayan and speaks fluent English, Spanish and MayaKi’che. Salanic lives with his family in a small rural agricultural village five hours away from Guatemala City. José marks his first lead role in a feature film.

Enrique Salanic February 2020 | RAGE monthly 27

Do you plan to continue to act professionally? Are you working on anything now?

Yes, continuing to act is my plan. There are projects in process where I will be working and keep having the chance to grow in my acting career.

What do you hope viewers will get out of or learn from José?

If there is someone experiencing solitude and loss in their lives, they can know that they are not alone and despite distance strength can be found. Yes, sometimes the world is full of darkness and trickery, but beauty can be found if one is willing to look for it. For more information, go to

Would you say the story is realistic in terms of the struggles young gay men face in Guatemala/Latin America?

Yes. In many ways it represents a reality that many gay men have to live or go through in a conservative society. The story itself is relatable to any human being as we all have struggles and have lived some kind of loss. But the story also shows hope and strength because we, at some point in life, realize that life goes on and have got to keep growing and believe in ourselves.

What was it like working with Manolo Herrera, who plays your character’s boyfriend Luis? You are so sexy together.

He is a great actor and he is a team player. As the movie was being filmed, we got to know each other’s potentials and weaknesses, and that made us grow artisti- cally. We knew that it was a chance to show a reality lived by many people in this world. It was a really beautiful process, and he has become a great friend of mine.

One of the most romantic scenes in the movie is when you are driving a motorcycle and Luis is sitting behind you, kissing and touching you. Were you an experienced motorcycle driver or did you have to learn for that scene?

Yes, this a beautiful scene. I had the chance to learn how to ride a bike and got my license to play the different motorcycle scenes.

Will you be traveling to Los Angeles or any other U.S. cities for the film’s theatrical openings?

No, unfortunately my visa got denied the two times that I tried. But there will be someone from the crew present.

he 75th annual Venice Film Festival, held in 2018, featured a number of LGBTQ movies in contention for its prestigious Queer Lion Award. Among these wereThe Favourite, which would go on to win an Oscar for lead actress Olivia Colman, and Suspiria, director Luca

Congratulations on your award-winning movie! How has the experience of making it and promoting it been for you?

It has been a great experience where I have had the chance to get to know a lot of people with great talent. A beautiful adventure as well. I have had the chance to go to festivals such as Venice, Panama and Madrid for the screenings and the hosts have been very welcoming.

Was Joséyour first movie? How did you get cast in it?

No, it was my second. My first was Days of Light, directed by Sergio Ramirez. The photographer of that movie, Alvaro Rodriguez, recommended me to Li Cheng.

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