Who doesn’t like a good historical drama? From renditions of Marie Antoinette and the British Monarchy to stories about WWII heroes and stories of American presidents, there is pretty much “ real event-based ” drama for just about everything. . Dance of the 41 – or El baile de los 41 – Now streaming on Netflix, shines a light on a pivotal moment in Mexican LGBTQ + history – and can catch on to the best of drama from the prestige period.
The essential: Ignacio de la Torre (Alfonso Herrera) marries Amada Díaz (Mabel Cadena), the daughter of Mexican President Porfirio Díaz (Fernando Becerril). Ignacio’s career is booming, and hopefully his new status as the president’s son-in-law will help him break new ground. As his marriage begins and his career takes off, Ignacio also falls in love – with another man. Ignacio brings in Evaristo Rivas (Emiliano Zurita) with a group of queer men who get together regularly to party, have sex and have fun. While it initially appears that Ignacio may be able to keep his life separate, the growing mistrust and spying of wife Amada (who doesn’t hesitate to implicate her father and brother when she is unhappy) results in that her double life is on display, even if only up to her for the time being.
Torn between an angry woman, a threatened career and a devoted lover, Ignacio struggles to make sense of his world and his future. He continues to meet the group of 42, but eventually the party comes to an abrupt end. A police raid on a special ball (in which many men are dressed in drag) sees its members – even those in the upper echelons of society – named and humiliated in the public, with one exception: Ignacio. He could escape the worst of punishment thanks to his stepfather’s status, but the aftershocks of that event and the friends he lost could very well change his life – and Mexican history – forever.
What movies will it remind you of ?: Dance of the 41 has a lot of historical dramatic beats that we’ve grown accustomed to as viewers, but a lot of them – both in tone and story – are unique to it. That said, it may appeal to fans of vintage theater from titles like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Anna karenina (2012), and the plethora of 19th century royalty films out there.
Performance to watch: The talented set is what makes Dance of the 41 so incredibly memorable, but Emiliano Zurita’s turn as Evaristo – or “Eva,” as Ignacio affectionately calls her – is heartbreaking. It’s the kind of performance that sneaks up on you, like a flower bud slowly opening before your eyes. Zurita’s on-screen presence is particularly calm and emotional, gently stealing our hearts just as he steals those of Ignacio. He doesn’t have much to say, but there is so much going on behind his eyes. Watching him play Eva immediately prompted me to see what other work he had done.
Memorable dialogue: There’s a lot of rich, nuanced exchange here, but I got a kick out of a brief moment of levity with Ignacio when he asked why there are rules: “Let others follow.”
Gender and skin: Everyone is naked and there is all kinds of sex in Dance of the 41; uncomfortable sex on the wedding night, almost sex on a piano bench, sex parties in a dimly lit tub, after a horseback ride on the river, sultry romantic sex, you name it.
Our catch: It may be at the beginning of the 20th century, but the messages Dance of the 41 feel incredibly contemporary. It’s a story that takes place 120 years ago, but its depiction of how the LGBTQ + community is treated and mentioned by others is totally resonant. These are people who feel they have to hide from the world to find their true happiness, and who are forced to create families with people they don’t really like and to put on faces so that everyone. world can see them. Some of the film’s most emotional moments come not from the central cast, but from the group of men wearing dresses and jewelry and performing, their eyes filling with tears as they speak freely – wouldn’t be. – that for a moment.
Dance of the 41 isn’t afraid to get into sexy stuff, but it never feels exploitative or gratuitous. All of the sex and nudity scenes feel in tune with the rest of the film and its message, combing through to create a memorable drama. Naked bodies aren’t just there to be exciting; As with every other shot in the film, it seems useful and essential to tell the bigger story at the heart of the film. Director David Pablos tells this story with beautiful complexity, easily balancing themes of homophobia, chauvinism and misogyny. Amada may be something of a villain in Ignacio’s story, but she’s also a victim in her own right – and the film doesn’t shy away from touching on those more delicate subjects.
The “dance of the 41” is said to have been it is the first time that homosexuality has been made visible in Mexico. Admit I knew absolutely nothing about this historic event before the movie, but I came out inspired to dig deeper and understand how foundational it really was. Dance of the 41 feels like a particularly timely film, and aside from being a deeply moving drama, it will likely educate viewers as well.
Our call: Spread it. With its beautiful production design, stunning performance and important history, Dance of the 41 could easily rub shoulders with some of our most prestigious historical dramas.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic in karaoke, and tweeting thirst. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.