Executed with verve if shaky narrative/tonal control, Ela Troyano’s “Latin Boys Go To Hell” is an enjoyable semi-mess. Print screened at San Francisco Gay Fest (and earlier at the Berlin Fest Panorama section) was nearly 10 minutes shorter than promised; the Havana-born U.S. helmer noted beforehand that an expanded, soundtrack-upgraded version already was in the works for Strand’s planned autumn release. Presumably those changes will address current edit’s oddball, sloppy faults.
But sex appeal and hip humor are already in place to assure brisk traffic among gay urban auds.
Justin (Irwin Ossa) is a sensitive young Latino adult still living in his hectoring mom’s Brooklyn flat and working as assistant to a photographer (Anne Iobst) whose erotic shots of comely Latin males verge on racist exploitation. One of her subjects, sex-on-wheels model-actor Carlos (Mike Ruiz), has set his seducing sights on Justin — but latter is more intrigued by his newly arrived, punk-looking cousin from Chicago, Angel (John Bryant Davila).
While open-minded, Angel’s own desires are strictly heterosexual. So Justin ricochets into the bed of crass, hunky Carlos after all. This brief interlude enflames the jealousy of Carlos’ hot-tempered sometime b.f. Braulio (Alexis Artiles), who is simultaneously stringing along g.f. Andrea (Jennifer Lee Simard). She, meanwhile, takes a shine to Angel. These tangled alliances culminate at a party where the now fully unhinged Braulio seeks vengeance.
It takes awhile for pic to secure itself as an over-the-top sendup of TV novelas (shown in parodic vid excerpts from the mythic series “Dos Vidas”). Early progress is awkward, lacking proper character explanation as several figures exhibit both homophobic and homophilic behaviors. Other odd gaps suggest missing scenes or simply poor story planning.
Troyano plants surreal-funny clues to the ultimate intent via melodramatic canned-music deployment or visual extravagances (an outdoor glitter-shower, a “crying” Virgin Mary statue, etc.). But her unsteady hand straddles earnestness and satire for too long, until latter aspect finally takes over.
Despite all formal flaws, “Latin Boys” has a certain knowingly purple bravado that’s fun to watch — and the frequently unclad appeal of the male thesps (particularly mega-buffed Ruiz) won’t hurt in winning over select auds, either. Clearly some editorial fine-tuning is called for; visuals are often imaginative within obvious low-budg limits, with current sound quality quite shrill. Cut shown at the SF Fest ended abruptly, sans closing credits.