Article Title:Cachorro (Bear Cub)
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:20th February 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1129
Text:CACHORRO (BEAR CUB) Dir: Miguel Albaladejo Spain, 2004, 35mm, 99 mins. As seen on Maori Television NOTE: Unlike a lot of Hollywood pictures, Cachorro doesn't tell you everything the writer thinks you need to know in the first half-hour, so in order to review this one properly, there's going to have to be some spoilers. Skip to the last paragraph if you want a precis without ruining the plot, or feel free to keep reading... A Spanish movie about bears (the hairy homo variety) on Maori TV? Uninterrupted by advertising, and shown in widescreen? What is going on here? It would seem that Maori TV is quickly becoming New Zealand's answer to Australia's free-to-air SBS channel, and bless them for it. Somehow, this award-winning film passed by the gay film festival circuit in New Zealand, which is a shame. The bear subculture is a large part of the gay community, but outside films of the R-18 variety no-one really has seen fit to make a film that identifies them as such. Until now. Pedro is a very sexually active gay man (unlike the ones you see on American television), living alone. He still keeps a photo of his partner, who appears to have been gone a long time. Pedro doesn't talk about that. In fact, he doesn't talk about much at all, and he's a dentist, so his patients can't either. What Pedro does have is a big circle of friends who all take care of each other, in the way that gay men have done for decades – building alternate families to replace the ones that have either rejected them, or the ones that society's strictures have stopped them from creating. He also has a drug-loving hippie sister, who at the start of our story comes to drop off her nine-year-old son Bernardo to stay with his uncle for a few weeks while she trips off to India. What mad complications will ensue when the horned-up hairy dude has to become a surrogate dad, you ask? The unlikely parent scenario has been played out for slapstick many times before. Cachorro doesn't go down that route. Pedro proves to be a wonderful caring parent, and a very conservative one at that (fundies take note), who takes on more than he bargained for when his sister ends up being incarcerated for drug possession in India and can't come home. All the characters are well-drawn, and there are some very affecting moments – Bernardo asking his uncle to give him a haircut just like his, Pedro's inability to give himself totally to a new partner because of his past loss, and Pedro's bear mates throwing him a surprise party. In addition, Cachorro is perhaps one of the first gay-themed films to give us a character dealing with the modern reality of HIV as a less fatal yet still debilitating illness. We don't find out until quite late in the piece that Pedro is HIV+, which in some ways feels like a bit of a cheat because despite him occupying almost all the screen time, we never see him take any medication. However, one suspects the reason for this was to emphasise the secrecy surrounding his status – it is used as an attempt by an estranged conservative grandmother to attempt to blackmail him out of custody of his nephew. Cachorro is a beautiful and bittersweet story that is as lovable and cuddly as the big hairy lugs that inhabit it, and if you can find the DVD, I understand you'll be treated to some naughty bits that were edited out for television (and the United States, where no-one is allowed to have sex anymore). Chris Banks - 20th February 2006    
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