Memories of Penitent Heart
With the strides made in the LGBTQ movement, one risks forgetting its difficult and dramatic beginnings. Not only were many homosexuals forced to repress their sexuality due to social pressure, but there was also the deadly impact and stigma of AIDS upon the community. Entitled Memories of a Penitent Heart, this episode of PBS’s documentary arm, POV, director Cecilia Aldarondo explores both of these historic hindrances on the gay community by researching her late and mysterious uncle Miguel.
Miguel Dieppa was a young Puerto Rican man in love with theatre and life away from home. For him, his island home represented a strictly devout mother, impotent father and older sister ensconced in her new life as a mother. This reality caused Miguel to leave for New York and pursue a professional life on-stage. The city also provided a host of other paths for the new arrival to follow; the merit of these choices is still a subject of debate between Miguel’s lover and family, even 30 years after his death.
Memories of a Penitent Heart is a documentary that is both standard and innovative. Audiences can laugh, cry, and experience all the emotions between, due to the linear story. This simplicity is further solidified in the on-screen family tree that literally connects the featured characters to Miguel. The innovation is apparent in Aldarondo’s curiosity about her uncle and objective to to present his secret life to a disbelieving family.
The layer of images in the film, whether they are photos of Miguel’s things, archival footage, or Puerto Rico, look professional and feel personal. Like the mysterious protagonist, the double-edged presentation proves successful, albeit heartbreaking. However solemn, the ambiguity of Memories of Penitent Heart will certainly resonate.
Memories of a Penitent Heart does not have a UK release date yet.
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