Movie Review By: Bryan Fox/ Blogger
Sometimes in documentaries, the topic addressed is so sensational it needs only be presented to be appreciated. But in other cases, the viewer needs to see scenes which juxtapose the two sides of a story, which show the protagonists as presented in opposition to the forces which conspire against them, which stoke the fires of the conflict and build tension for the viewer. The topic of transvestitism is, in the modern world, nothing new, and the documentary Muxes de Juchitan (Mexico, dir. Yorgos Avgeropolous)  attempts to show us people with ‘alternate sexualities’ living within societies which vacillate between acceptance and rejection of them.
Juchitan, Mexico, is a country town of 166,000 residents where there are a disproportionate amount of homosexuals. In fact, they verily take the city over, with complete immodesty, both during an annual festival of Muxes (the word means ‘feline’ in the indigenous Zapotec language of the community), and in quotidian life as well. We are introduced to at least a dozen characters in the town, from Bifi, a proud exhibitionist who flounces through the streets of town in a tight black dress, seductively wrapped in a shawl, to Andy, an affable, effeminate soul who dresses as a man for his job as a nurse at the local hospital, albeit a man with full make up.
The locals are at a loss to explain the proliferation of ‘alternate sexualities’ in the tiny town – local religious lore has it that the patron saint of the town carried his muxes in a bag, which broke when he arrived to Juchitan. A more plausible explanation is simply that the Zapoteca culture is matriarchal, and that, traditionally, Zapotec children are neither addressed by or treated as having a specific gender until the age of four.
Often a documentary thrives off the conflict it displays, and Muxes seems to fall flat, simply because there isn’t much conflict to be found – no one in Juchitan seems to mind what’s going on. The old folks are ok with the Muxes, the young folks are ok with the muxes, the priests are ok with their muxes. Watching this film, one might be led to wonder (and, indeed, the residents of Juchitan may well ask) why homosexuality and transvestitism present any problem anywhere else in the world – people are the way they are, y nada más, we seem to be told. There are a few sad stories tacked on at the end of the film, when we see cases of discrimination some of the muxes have suffered. But most of these have come outside the safe confines of Juchitan. And there are laments of never being able to have long-term partners, or raise families of their own, and it is odd that none of the muxes are shown pairing off with each other, as though they have, in some way, transcended sexuality by their rejection of traditional gender roles. Still, though, one cannot help feeling this documentary would have had a bit more sabor if there had been a bit more of a struggle, or at least some more animo in the hearts and words of the characters it follows.
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