(Luciérnagas, Bani Khoshnoudi, Mexico/USA/Greece/Dominican Republic, 2018)


Veracruz in Mexico is the type of port city where everybody comes from somewhere else and plans to head off by boat for yet another place. But Ramin (Arash Marandi) from Iran is stuck: with little money, no Spanish language, few friends and only occasional, casual labouring work, he is assailed by longings and memories.


He carries with him only some music (by Kourosh Yaghmaei), a notebook, and a photo of the boyfriend he left behind; a Skype chat with him at an Internet café is frustrating and inconclusive. Can Ramin dare to explore his gay sexuality, in a new way, in this foreign place, where macho and queer (as embodied by fellow worker Guillermo played by Luis Alberti) are so difficult to tell apart?


Eschewing flashbacks to Ramin’s Iranian background, Bani Khoshnoudi splits the narrative in order to follow both him and resilient local hotel manager, Leti (Flor Eduarda Gurrola). Leti is disquieted as she awaits the return visit of her former lover, an insensitive guy who is now a Texan resident with a small son.


Superbly directed, Luciérnagas is a film about tentative communication, flashes of empathy, and the difficult, daily process of tolerance and love in a precarious world.


Yet, even in the least comforting of places, the fireflies of desire still beckon.

© Adrian Martin July 2019

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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