¡Viva! Film Notes – Te estoy amando locamente

Dr Abigail Loxham, University of Liverpool, explores Alejandro Marín’s Te estoy amando locamente, screening as part of ¡Viva! Festival 2024 on 10 & 13 Apr.

This film is the debut feature length film of Alejandro Marín already know for a successful 2021 TV series Maricón perdido/Queer You Are.

The film opens in 1977 as Spain finds itself caught between an old regime and hope for the future; an historical moment which is now referred to as the Transition. When Franco dies in 1975 after almost forty years of dictatorship Spain finds itself, as is referred to several times throughout the film, in a period of flux, intent on asserting a new identity as a modern democracy in a country where the traditions of a lengthy dictatorship are firmly entrenched. Since the end of the Civil War in 1939, the dominant ideology had been the conservative and catholic morality espoused by the Franco regime.

Central to this version of morality during dictatorship Spain was the family, understood as heteronormative and existing for the sole purpose of reproduction (the Virgin Mary was the ultimate female role model). This ideology was also enshrined in law – in 1954, 16 years after the beginning of the Franco regime, a law titled ‘The Law of Vagrants and Thugs’ (de vagos y maleantes) was amended to add homosexuality to the ‘social dangers’ covered by the law.

Te estoy amando locamente explores the campaigns during the Transition to repeal this law, and centres the lives of some of those queer people that were discriminated against both by the legislation itself but also by the strict moral codes of Francoism. In particular, it focuses on the life of the protagonist Miguel (played by Omar Banana) who you might have seen in the Netflix series Sky Rojo. It is no accident that this young adult finds himself in a personal period of transition mirroring the process taking place in Spain, and caught between his mother’s conservative worldview and the career and life he wants to pursue.

This period of Transition in Spain, and specifically the underground culture of that period, is well-known for its embrace of queer and marginalised subjects. After the end of dictatorship and the associated relaxing of censorship, films and other cultural production overtly rejected previous social mores with young filmmakers, such as Pedro Almodóvar, making films that celebrated all types of identity and presented a vision of the new-found liberation that they hoped for.

More recently that filmic culture has turned to an examination of the more difficult aspects of Spain’s past, a realisation that forgetting violent dictatorship, and the amnesty law which is discussed in today’s film, didn’t heal the traumas of the past but merely hid them for the sake of continuity and an appearance of stability.

Of course, we know that when the past is examined in cultural production it is always done so through the lens of the present, or to make comment on events of the present. Spain is one of the most progressive countries in Europe in terms of legislation that protects LGBTQ+ people. In 2023, the Spanish parliament approved a law that enabled self-identification from for trans people, avoiding the medicalisation that had previously been demanded by this process. Love and Revolution is timely, as it comes at a time in which attacks from the right-wing political parties in Spain are once more focussing on gender and sexuality. This film not only reminds us how far we have come but also how far we have to go; it reminds us that these battles are not only fought by minorities – we see feminist movements join with their LGBTQ+ allies, as gender is also central to the ideologies that seek to maintain a heteropatriarchal status quo.

Although the title changes slightly in its English iteration, both the Spanish and the English title centre ‘love’, this is the central message of the film. Families are not, after all, uniquely created by blood and biology and in this film it is the families that we create that unite to support one another and fight oppression. A colleague of mine has a postcard on their door that states ‘Queer Joy Is a Protest’ and it is one of the first things that came to mind when I watched this film. The music, the sequins, the costumes and performances prove that there can be playfulness in the face of adversity and these elements make this film a joy to watch; this is an important reminder that in order to resist the ideologies that seek once more to discriminate then we need to keep love at the centre of this revolution.