Re: Sound familiar?

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 20 Mar 1997 08:56:47 -0800 (PST)

Merle...Just so happens I reviewed a coupla films which I think you might=
=20
be thinking about:

THE SALT MINES (3 STARS) 47 min. $250 1990
THE TRANSFORMATION (3 STARS) 58 min. $300 1995

(Both videos purchased together $500)

Frameline

I=D5m constantly awed by the tendency of real life to get all the best=20
scripts. There=D5s nothing that can beat a top-notch documentary for=20
dramatic complexity and depth--and both The Salt Mines and The=20
Transformation are, indeed, top notch. In The Salt Mines, filmmakers=20
Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio plunge us into the lower depths of New=20
York York street life. =D2The Salt Mines=D3 are the bleak dumping grounds =
in=20
which the NY Sanitation Department stores snow-melting salt along with=20
the hulks of dead garbage trucks. Among the band of outsiders who call=20
the guts of these decayed trucks home, are Sara, Gigi, and Giovanna,=20
three Latino transvestites who for years have survived and supported=20
their crack habits by turning tricks on the mean streets. The video=20
follows the daily lives of these three close friends and chronicles their=
=20
personal histories; their views on being gay, into drag, and on the=20
street; their dreams and fears. Remarkably, there=D5s a certain kind of=20
good humor and satisfaction in survival and freedom lurking somewhere=20
beneath the surface of these stories. The Transformation is the=20
companion piece to The Salt Mines, and perhaps the more riveting of the=20
two videos. The piece focuses on Sara (nee Ricardo). Diagnosed as HIV+,=
=20
Ricardo is subsequently allows himself to be =D2rescued=D3 from the streets=
=20
by a Born Again Christian group (specifically by minister Terry, a=20
profoundly spooky guy fixated on =D2saving=D3 drag queens and transsexuals)=
. =20
Transported to Dallas by the church, Ricardo outwardly converts to=20
straight life, and marries a big hearted old gal he has met through the=20
church. Some of the most touching scenes of Ricardo=D5s new life are the=
=20
intimate discussions between Ricardo and his visiting friend Gina (Hugo),=
=20
who has also converted sexually and religiously. In the privacy of=20
Ricardo=D5s bedroom, they lie side by side, revealing their true hearts,=20
and their doubts and regrets about giving up their former carnal lives. =20
There=D5s also tremendous poignancy in Ricardo and Hugo=D5s attempts to=20
return to New York with Terry to convert old Salt Mine cronies Giovanna=20
and Gigi--both of whom stay staunchly in their high heels and true to=20
what they perceive as their nature. The final moments of The=20
Transformation shows an alarmingly frail Ricardo one year later. =20
Wistfully, he comments that if he had it all over to do again, =D2I=D5d=20
choose to be a woman.=D3 Both The Salt Mine and The Transformation are=20
smartly conceived and technically accomplished works. Original music by=20
Elliot Sharp and Hahn Rowe are particularly effective counterpoints to=20
the visuals. Both videos would would be well worth purchasing for larger=
=20
public library and academic collections concerned with current social=20
issues and gay and lesbian studies. One qualm: although both works=20
could stand alone, both are infinitely stronger when viewed back to=20
back. The reason for marketing the two videos as separate works, rather=20
than as a single, reasonably-priced package is somewhat of a mystery.

Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
510-643-8566
ghandman@library.berkeley.edu