Undertow (2009 film)
|Directed by||Javier Fuentes-León|
|Produced by||Javier Fuentes-León|
|Written by||Javier Fuentes-León
|Music by||Selma Mutal Vermeulen|
|Edited by||Roberto Benavides|
Undertow (Spanish: Contracorriente) is a 2009 internationally co-produced drama film directed by Javier Fuentes-León and marks his directorial long-feature debut. Initial financing came from Germany and France with additional financing from Peru. The film shot in Cabo Blanco, Peru, won the World Cinema Audience Award in the Dramatic category at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S.A. Other Audience Awards included Cartagena, Montreal, Miami, Chicago, Utrecht, Lima, and Galway, as well as Jury Awards in Madrid, San Francisco, Seattle, Toulouse, and Philadelphia. It received a nomination as Best Latin American Film at the 2011 Goya Awards in Spain.
Miguel (Cristian Mercado) is a young fisherman of Cabo Blanco, a small village in northern Peru with specific traditions regarding death. He is married to Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), who is pregnant with their first son, but he also has a secret affair with a male painter called Santiago (Manolo Cardona).
Santiago accidentally drowns at sea, and his ghost returns to ask Miguel to find his body, in order to bury it with their village's rituals. Miguel eventually finds Santiago's body in the water, but does not tell his ghost of the discovery. Meanwhile, the villagers discover nude paintings of Miguel at Santiago's house, fueling a rumour that he was having an affair. Mariela hears the rumours, confronts Miguel about them, and upon hearing him confess, she goes to her mother's house with their newborn child.
Miguel returns to look for the body of Santiago, but he finds that the current has taken it away. Mariela eventually returns home, but then the body of Santiago appears in the nets of a fishing boat. Miguel decides to claim the body of Santiago for a burial at sea. He takes the coffin of Santiago to sea, but a second after the coffin glides into the sea and Miguel is in bitter tears, the ghost of Santiago reappears for a last time, caressing Miguel, who returns home alone in the sundown.
Undertow had been gestating since 1996, when the director Javier Fuentes-León wrote the very first scene. Originally conceived of as a supernatural revenge thriller about a fisherman having an affair with a prostitute, Javier decided to change it after coming out of the closet himself, in an attempt to explore more interesting themes and material.
The film received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% out of 32 critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.3/10. Manhola Dargis from the New York Times praised the director's ability to show powerful relationships between the characters, particularly focusing on the complexity of Miguel’s feelings for Mariela, which she called "gratifying". David Wiegang from the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, saying that the "film's accomplishments are many, but not the least is its ability to take a human story and frame it as a parable, without losing a bit of credibility or irresistible heart."
Pam Grady from Boxoffice Magazine wrote “Sensual and romantic with a heavy dose of the supernatural and populated by indelible characters.” Bob Mondello from NPR wrote “Undertow, for all its narrative tricks, has been given the rhythm and texture of real life, as well as emotional undercurrents that are haunting.” 
Awards and nominations
- For Undertow
- 2009: Won Sebastian Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival
- 2010: Won Audience Awards for "World Cinema - Dramatic" category at the Sundance Film Festival
- 2010: Nominated for Grand Jury Prize for "World Cinema - Dramatic" category at the Sundance Film Festival
- 2010: Won Audience Award at the Lima Latin American Film Festival
- 2010: Won Audience Award for Ibero-American competition at Miami Film Festival
- 2010: Nominated for Golden India Catalina for "Best Film (Mejor Película)" at Cartagena Film Festival
- 2011: Nominated GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release
- 2011: Nominated for Goya for "Best Spanish Language Foreign Film" at Goya Awards
- List of submissions to the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Peruvian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender-related films by storyline
- Latin American News Dispatch: Interview with Javier Fuentes-León, Director of Contracorriente
- "Sundance 2010: Winners Announced!". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
- "Contracorriente (Undertow), writer, director Javier Fuentes-León". filmmakermagazine. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "9 Foreign Language Films Continue to Oscar Race". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
- Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Undertow". Gay Essential. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- Undertow. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- Undertow (2009) - Review. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- Review: 'Undertow' frames human story as parable
- Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Undertow". Gay Essential. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
- "Undertow (aka Contracorriente)". filmindependent.org. Retrieved 2012-07-13.