On August 5th, Gun Hill Road, a favorite of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, premiered in select theatres nationwide. Written and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, this riveting and authentically acted film addressed the complicated issue of sexuality, as well as the importance of love and acceptance by one’s own family.
Set in the heart of the Bronx, father Enrique Rodriguez (Esai Morales) returns home at the opening of the film after three years of incarceration. In his attempts to regain control of his life and family, his feminine son, Michael aka “Vanessa” (Harmony Santana), continues to distance himself from the home to live a secret life unbeknownst to his father. As Enrique becomes more aware of the divide between himself, his wife Angie (Judy Reyes) and his son Michael, he enters a state of confusion and denial. He soon discovers that Angie has been supportive of Michael’s decisions, which causes divisiveness within the family.
This independent film is unique in that it marked the completion of director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s thesis feature film. Emerging director Green is an NYU Graduate Film program alum and former actor who moved behind the camera to direct critically acclaimed shorts such as “Cuts”, “Choices” and HBO Short Film Award at ABFF winner “Premature”.
Also, making a debut is lead Harmony Santana, a 20 year-old transsexual actress from NY’s Lower East Side, who was able to relate to Michael’s struggles in a way that many other actresses would not have been able to do. The authenticity we see, from Michael’s fear of facing his father to the rejection “Vanessa” encounters after her first relationship comes to an end, stems from a place so undeniably real that we want nothing more for Michael than to make peace with himself and his father.
This movie is a definite must-see! For all those struggling with sexual identity, currently in the transgender community or for all those wanting insight into what it means to be transgendered, this is the movie that brings it all to light. What’s more, Director Rashaad Ernesto Green tackles the subject of family acceptance and proves just how important love and encouragement from our families is. And that is something we all understand.
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