23 May 2021: 'Dance of the 41' review: Powerful, tragic gay drama
Mexican drama Dance of the 41 (original title: El baile de los 41) is now streaming on Netflix. The impactful film is based on a real-life high society scandal that took place in Mexico around the end of the 19th century. The story is about men who dressed up in women's clothing and were held in an illegal police raid. Here's our review.
Introduction: The period costumes instantly takes you to the 1900s
The film begins with the introduction of a politician named Ignacio de la Torre y Mier, played by actor Alfonso Herrera. He marries Amada Diaz (played by Mabel Cadena), the daughter of the then-president of Mexico. Their relationship was bound to have some friction. You'll find out why soon. The beautiful period costumes and set of the movie instantly transport you to the 1900s.
Story: Pacing takes time but picks up steam later on
The movie takes some time to pick up the pace and soon we come to know that Mier is cavorting with a young man named Evaristo Rivas, played by Emiliano Zurita. Remember, it's the early 1900s and Mexico was then a hostile place for gay men to freely express themselves. Hence, the film shows a secret club that all these powerful men visit.
Raid: Men dressed up in drag rounded up by police
An annual ball is planned at the secret club, where some of the men are dressed in drag, and the rest in suits. This apparently happened in the real world back in the day, and the police illegally raided the place as the men were frolicking around enjoying each other's company. The film captures the hardships of being gay at that time perfectly.
Impact: The final few minutes of the film will move you
It is these last 20 minutes of the film that might truly get you! It is perhaps the most impactful scene and shows the cruelty and hatred people had for gay people. The men rounded up in the raid were mostly from the upper echelons of society and we see that they are being punished by naming and shaming them at a public plaza.
Rating: No second thoughts, go watch it! Final rating: 4/5
The opera-style music continues throughout the final scene as the men are physically tortured by the unruly crowd. This final scene could have gone wrong in so many ways, but it was impeccably shot. Go watch the film if you're an LGBTQ+ ally or even have some curiosity about this insane event that took place over a century ago. Final rating: 4/5.
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