The first time I saw a photo of Patricia Velásquez
‘, I couldn’t catch my breath. Stunning doesn’t begin to describe her. In February 2015, I read Velásquez’ memoir Straight Walk
, discussing her struggles growing up in poverty in Venezuela and how her relationship with Sandra Bernhard made her realize she was a lesbian. This, by the way, makes her the world’s first openly lesbian Latina supermodel and actress. Then last summer I watched the incredibly beautiful and talented Patricia Velasquez in the film Liz in September
on the big screen at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, CA. Months later, I downloaded the film from Wolfe Video and watched it again only to be completely blown away in an even bigger way than I was before.
It is a simple premise. A group of extremely eclectic lesbians live together in this unadorned tropical beach town. Visitors come and go as the women place their bets on how quickly Liz (Velasquez) will take them to bed. Her reputation for conquest, but no commitment is set in stone. She succeeds then speeds away on her motorcycle like a Roman warrior with white steads pulling her chariot. Yet, a dark secretive cloud hangs heavy on her. She is loved and admired in a fearful way by her friends. But, like all good stories, someone unexpected comes to paradise and Liz does what she swears never to do- she falls in love.
I was particularly spellbound by “the love scene” because what we see is the afterglow. Our imagination lets us create our own prelude. It is sexy, seamless and intimate in a passionate way that director Fina Torres may not have even realized was one of the most memorable few minutes on screen. But again, like in all good stories, the twist comes when Liz is faced with her own mortality. Love has come to Liz in September just when she may not see Christmas. What does one do for love? I don’t want to share more because it is a film for which words don’t do it justice. It is being there in those moments- visually- that sticks in your mind and makes you want to re-visit Torres’ film over and over.
First, kudos to Frameline SF for bringing Liz in September to Oakland. A packed theater gasped in awe of Velasquez and, as a community, we all silently wept in the end. This is a simple but profound film. Watch it for the stunning Patricia Velasquez, Watch it if you love the beach, like women on motorcycles, have a fondness for the badass chick in the buddy group, or you just like a wonderful lesbian film. Then, watch it again for the heart, the magic and the journey that will haunt your soul.